Last night started my coverage of the 2009/2010 NHL season. Why last night, you ask, when the preseason has already been going on for a few days? Well the answer to that is easy. Last Night was the first Leafs broadcast I was able to watch, seeing as I don’t get TSN2, which was the only broadcaster for Wednesday night’s game against the Bruins (Leafs TV, WTF?).
Anyway, before I start to ramble…
Tonight’s game was really enjoyable to watch if you are Leafs fan. If you are a Flyers fan, not so much. With a final score of 4-0 in favor of the Buds, it proved to be the kind of game that gives all of Leafs Nation hope for the upcoming season. Now I know it is a little early to start planning the Cup parade, so let me assure you I won’t start doing that yet. But it doesn’t mean I can’t get excited about the Leafs.
There three specific reasons why I am so excited for this upcoming season, with all reasons being demonstrated quite clearly in this game.
Reason #1: Truculence
Yes, Brian Burke’s awesome word to describe how many cans of whupass he wants the Leafs to open up this year. The Leafs showed they have indeed gotten much tougher over the summer, both by acquiring new talent and through training and conditioning.
Firstly, I love having Mike Komisarek on the defense. He had a few nice hits last night and he can really clear the front of the net. Hopefully he remains healthy all year and brings the pain. Second, there were several fights, including one involving Luke Schenn and two involving Ben Ondrus. This is what I like to see, and I am sure Burkey feels the same.
The Leafs look like a team others will fear. And third, the Leafs were taking hits and getting right back into it, not causing shit, just taking it. Mikael Grabovski is a prime example. He took several big hits that would have ended his night last year, but not this year.
Overall, the Leafs' toughness is going to make them difficult to play against this upcoming season.
Reason #2: The Young Guns
There is a lot of young talent that has potential to make the team this year, which is going to make Ron Wilson’s job very difficult in the coming week, seeing as he only has one or two spots to hand out to four or five talented young skaters.
Tauted college forwards Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson signed at the end of last season and are both looking good. Bozak seems to stand out to me a little more than Hanson, showing more maturity with how he plays, and he seems to be much stronger on the puck, despite his lack of size. However, Hanson is still making a strong case for himself by scoring last night against the Flyers. Throw Victor Stalberg in the mix as well, and it is going to be a tight race to make this team for these young forwards.
Nazem Kadri had his first goal as a Maple Leaf last night (despite it still being preseason). He is showing he can play at this level, with excellent hands, fantastic speed and natural goal scoring ability. Saying this, I don’t know if he has what it takes to make the big club in his first year. But that’s what I said about Luke Schenn last year, and I had to eat my words.
I should also mention that Joey McDonald and James Reimer split the goaltending duties against the Flyers, each playing 30 minutes. They shared a shutout and both played quite well, with McDonald in particular looking very comfortable in the net, making 10 saves. If Toskala and Gustavsson aren’t careful, McDonald could challenge for that No. 2 spot if he continues this caliber of play.
Overall, it was a good showing for the Leafs. I was quite happy with how they played and I am sure the Leafs' brass feels the same way. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up this play in the coming week to finish off the preseason.
Leafs next game: Tonight @ Pittsburgh Penguins 7:30pm on Leafs TV.