Toronto Maple Leafs: How The Leafs Won Again, and Nazem Kadri Staying For Good?
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It's been over a month now since the Toronto Maple Leafs have won back-to-back games.
The Leafs played a fairly strong hockey game, for a team that has struggled for the last dozen or so. The Devils, on the other hand, seemed to be in over their heads still with a handful of injuries, diminished confidence, a veteran goaltender with creaking bones, and of course, a $100,000,000 baby who seemed invisible most of the night.
The hockey world will look on to see what Lou Lamoriello will do, now that his team is closer to drowning themselves by the 20 game mark with another big L after leaving the ACC Thursday Night.
Meanwhile, let us move on to further discuss how the Toronto Maple Leafs turned their frown up-side down.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonas Gustavsson
Jonas Gustavsson, the man people around the world call "The Monster."
Going into the game against the struggling Devils, The Monster's scorecard was sitting at 1-3-1 with a GAA of 2.85 for this season. Those stats should increase over the next week while he fills the net for veteran J.S Giguere.
Giggy left the last game against Nashville in the third period with a groin injury that will last another week or two. The Monster jumped into the third period against Nashville with no warm up and still played a great game.
Tonight, The Monster was once again something Leafs fans can look forward to as Giggy approaches the last year of his contract. The question is still out as to whether Giggy will be signed or shipped out by the Leafs.
Either way you slice it, The Monster will eventually be the potential number one goaltender, so long as he can hold his own this season and in the years to come.
Gustavsson made 29 saves for the night while only allowing one goal that bounced off a pair of skates in front of the net. This was not a goal he would have liked to give up, but The Monster really didn't have too much chance on this unlucky bounce.
At times throughout the game, Gustavsson was impressive as he shut down the opposition. He timed the shots perfectly for the most part, as opposed to how he was playing at the beginning of the year by going down and anticipating the shot too early. Gustavsson's lateral movement was smooth all night as he let his large 6'3 frame fill the top of the net.
Look for The Monster to play well and become a permanent landmark in the Leafs' net as the season continues.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel, a.k.a. Two First-Round Picks and a Second
When someone mentions Phil Kessel their mind may ponder about the draft picks we gave up for the young sniper. However, other Leaf fans who are looking toward the club's future will think about a pure goal-scorer with quick hands.
The 5th overall pick of the 2006 draft scored with his signature wrist shot against the Devils to give the Leafs some added relief.
Kessel came out of the gate blazing with almost a dozen decent chances to score. During the game, he was quick on his skates and was able to find enough open ice to really make a difference while keeping the Devils on their heels.
The goal-scoring and opportunities had run dry for seven straight nail-biting games for Kessel, but has shown he can still put the gas pedal down when he wants to.
In order for the Leafs to succeed, Kessel will have to continue to find open space on the ice to utilize his signature shot from anywhere around the net. He will also have to prove to the hockey world that he can create opportunities night in and night out, in order to derail the people still complaining about his trade. The Kessel trade discussion is completely trite at this stage in the Leafs' rebuild.
Watch Kessel over the course of the season and admire his ability to put fear into the opposing goaltenders.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski
This young man who is aspiring to be a key player with the Leafs top six started the season with what every fan considered the worst start for any player on the team. Most fans could have guessed that Grabo would score two goals and have only 5 assists for the entire season.
Well Leaf fans, Grabo has taken his poor play at the beginning of the season and turned it into some quick skating, good vision on the ice and a touch of scoring ability. We have longed for the day Grabo would pull it together and make a difference on a struggling team that requires him to add some skill into the top six.
Tonight, Grabo looked fast on his skates and showed his team that he can use his quick hands to score with a lighting bolt shot from the hash marks. To think only a handful of games ago, Grabo seemed to only use his hands as he shrugged his shoulders explaining why he can't make the puck go into the back of the (opposing team's) net.
Having his father watching the game from the stands must have helped Grabovski, considering he made a small pointing gesture to the stands to his father after he scored.
Here's to Grabovski having a good game and finally starting to put up some points on a more consistent basis. If the Leafs want to succeed, Grabo will need to play a great two-way game, and keep putting up points on the first or second line.
If we see Grabovski on the third line, we'll know we're having major issues from him again.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Kris Versteeg
When Kris Versteeg was announced in a trade this offseason, many Leafs fans stood on their couches cheering because they thought they were receiving some help up front, and another set of hands to score goals.
Versteeg started his Maple Leafs career horribly. Sure, he played a decent two-way game and was a huge asset to the PK, but can Leaf fans really be happy with just another PK specialist on the roster? NO.
Versteeg has just recently found his scoring touch with a couple solid goals against Nashville, and of course, a nice rocket of a goal against the Devils. Last night, Kris also helped out on the PK as usual, making the difference in a couple situations as the Devils, at times, were able to build some chances around "The Monster's" net.
I am not hating on Wilson because I know he is a good coach and is still working his players around with different plays and strategies, but Versteeg's goal scoring issues could have been solved a long time ago.
Wilson thought Versteeg was a goal-scorer who possessed some grit when he joined the lineup this year. It has seemed over the course of the season, Wilson has been using Versteeg all wrong. Just dust off all the old tapes of Versteeg in his juniors and with Chicago, and you'll see where he needs to be to succeed.
Put him in a position to come from the point or to cruise around the right circle of the goaltender and we'll get to see him snipe the corners like Kessel does. If Steeger does this from here on out we'll be happy campers all season long.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri
Nazem Kadri was the talk of the town last week after the much-debated move to bring him up to play with the big boys. Everyone, at the time, was bickering back and forth about whether this was the right time or if this was just a move by a desperate Burke when his Leafs were plagued with a scoring drought.
I'm glad these discussions have cooled down, because it was starting to become a bit out of proportion for a move that would not destroy the kid's career as an NHLer.
Tonight, Nazem Kadri was using his wheels and creating opportunities for his teammates. He also looked to be more responsible with the puck and not a defensive liability like most people thought he would be.
Over two games he has already shown a great amount of improvement. He added two huge helpers for the Leafs tonight while the Devils seemed to be quite concerned about what Kadri was going to do with the puck, showing him a great amount of attention whenever he had it.
As he showed tonight, Kadri can make things happen when he has the puck in your zone and will not hesitate to try and skate circles until your team opens up, leaving Kessel wide open to the side of the net.
Watch for Nazem Kadri—apparently our savior—to stay up with the big club for a bit longer, if not for the remainder of the year. He may not be our "Baby Jesus," but he is a great prospect with more potential than you can shake a stick at.
Next game, Kadri will play a Hockey Night In Canada game in Montreal against the Canadiens. The Jury's out.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Win 3-1 and Get To Tussle With The Montreal Canadiens Next
Some hockey fans were assuming the Leafs ill-skilled offense wouldn't be able to score on Brodeur last night. Well everyone, they were able to tally three goals, and two of them were made from the great vision of none other than Nazem Kadri.
The Leafs will take the W and walk into their next game against the Montreal Canadiens, where they are definitely going to need confidence to handle the relentless booing crowd. Nazem will be tested playing a big game against a rival in their building on a Saturday night.
Do you think the Leafs have the potential to improve their streak against Montreal?
Oh, and big news... I heard a rumor earlier this morning about San Jose possibly offering Devin Setoguchi for Francois Beauchemin, a mid-level prospect, and a mid-level draft pick in a potential trade.
Do you think Setoguchi will be in the line up against the Canadiens? I don't think so, but it would help out a lot as the Leafs look to earn their three-game win streak!