Lets be honest, the Leafs are starting to scare people who are dreaming of a tank this season.
There is a vast majority of this fan base who would like to see the team play poorly and finish in the bottom 5 of the league to ensure this franchise a really solid chance at a Top 3 Draft pick (first 3 picks this year are all drawn by the luck of a bouncing ball) during the next NHL Entry Draft in June. There is one major flaw with this thinking however. The fly in the ointment is our Head Coach, Mike Babcock.
You see, Babcock is too competitive, too detailed in his systems and preparation to allow a team to lose on a regular basis. Yes, last night the Leafs lost again but they are doing so with determination and puck possession. In my opinion, eventually all of these factors will lead to winning.
Winning…Are you nuts with this lineup? Just settle down Leafs Nation, I am not predicting the hoisting of Lord Stanley or even making the playoffs but for those of you who want a Top 3 lottery pick this could hurt the odds of achieving that goal. While I do understand that any team out of the playoffs can grab one of those picks the odds are going to become much less in our favour with each win. Just for an extra kick in the jewels, when the Bruins are picking #1 remember where you heard it first.
I digress, back to the game itself.
Jonathan Bernier stopped the first shot last night…..WHOOT !!
However, he let in the 2nd shot. After giving up two goals in the first seven minutes, Johnny Berns settled into a nice rhythm for the rest of the game and looked much more comfortable in between the pipes. Bernier’s angles were better, his rebound control was better and his glove was lightning fast. That type of performance is exactly what scouts have talked about BEFORE Bernier arrived in Toronto from LA. In order for Bernier to regain the confidence of Mike Babcock, and become the true #1 here in Toronto we will need to see many more performances similar to last night and not just a ‘one and done’ scenario.
Raise your hand if you knew that Jake Gardiner had a bomb of a clapper from the blueline? *crickets*
Exactly. Leo Komarov was credited with the lone goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs last night off a Gardiner shot from the blueline. The goal, which was Leo’s third goal this weekend (after having two tallies vs Columbus on Friday night), was scored from exactly where Komarov needs to play his game. In front of the opposition net, while being a pain in the ass.
The Spaling, Winnik combination is going to be relied on heavily by Mike Babcock and staff this season in a myriad of situations. It is easy to see what hard work can accomplish when these two are out on the ice especially on the Penalty Kill. Speaking of penalty killing, Hunwick, Rielly, Spaling were all well over the 4 minute mark of ice time while shorthanded last evening. These are tough minutes to log (as many have mentioned prior to this post) and will eventually lead to increased trust from the Coaching Staff and many ice packs. Some are willing to make this commitment, many are not.
So there you have it Leafs fans. A team that competed hard while still losing the game 2-1 to Phil (“loved my time in Toronto, right”) Kessel and the Pittsburgh Penguins, can you accept that? Hard work and losing? I know some people will want to vomit their stomach lining up at the thought of another season of being kicked around. Some will be cranky when we do win. Fear not my fellow Leafs fans, Mike Babcock is laying the groundwork for better years ahead and it will take years like this (you know 48 of them) for us to truly appreciate things when we do start winning again.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend and remember their is more hockey for the blue and white as the Marlies play again Sunday (today) afternoon at the Ricoh….3pm start vs Albany Devils **Not the River Rats**
Next Game: @Sabres—Wednesday 7pm Sportsnet