If you were fortunate enough to catch last night’s Leafs game against Boston, you saw one of the best individual performances by any Leaf this year. Mikhail Grabovski is the real deal and the heart and soul of the Maple Leafs.
If this guy isn't your favorite Leaf, he should be.
When I say he is the heart and soul of this team, I mean it literally. Did you see the way he got plastered into the boards by Zdeno Chara, not once, but twice? The first hit by the behemoth defender pinned Grabovski’s head against the glass and sent him crashing to the ice, where he lay prone for a few seconds.
Did Grabovski head to the locker room for analysis? Did he even miss a few shifts? The answer to both is an unequivocal "no."
Instead, all he did was put himself in harm's way, in front of the net, and backhand a rebound from Mike Komisarek past Boston goalie Tim Thomas to give the Leafs their first lead of the game, 2-1.
But Grabovski wasn't finished there, and neither was Chara. The big bad Boston bully battered Grabovski once again, in an almost identical head-crushing hit into the boards. Utterly stunned, Grabovski stumbled to the ice, not once, not twice but three times as he tried to stumble his way back to the bench.
A lesser man would have been done for the night.
Concussions and other head trauma are a very real danger in the NHL, and I have to believe that the Leafs medical staff would take all precautions necessary to protect any player. But for some reason that can only be expressed as sheer determination, Grabovski just took a few whiffs from the smelling salts and was back out for his next shift.
Undaunted, Grabovski looked sharper and quicker than at any other time in the game and single-handedly won the game for the buds by scoring the winning goal with just over a minute to play.
He took the puck from Clarke MacArthur in the Leafs' own zone and proceeded to dazzle the Boston faithful by skating away from Patrice Bergeron before splitting defenders Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg. After a quick move to the outside that left Seidenberg bumble-headed and flopping on the ice, Grabovski lifted the puck over Thomas for his second goal of the game.
Grabovski had several chances to give up, rest or just simply phone it in after the beating he took in last night’s game. But being a player with tremendous heart, he reached down into his soul and found the will to carry on and the skill to perform in the clutch. I don’t know how he acts in the locker room, but on the ice, he is the true leader of the Maple Leafs and my favorite player. He should be yours as well.