To bring you up to speed, the Leafs won 6-5 in a shootout last night over the New Jersey Devils. It was a pretty wild back and forth game, with my opinion of this club changing after every 10 minutes of play.
What I was going to write after the first period: The Leafs have lost 2 in a row and looked particularly out-of-sync in last night's game against the Devils. Despite a recent stint in the press box designed the drill the message home, Jason Blake continues to frustrate the hell out of Leaf fans with consistently poor efforts and a bunch of weak shots on net. And, as a result, the lackluster effort led to a particularly quiet first period in the game time chat room over at PPP.
What I was going to write after the second period: Wilson must have screamed at these guys during the intermission because the Leafs rebounded from a bad game against the Lightening and a shaky first period by coming out strong in the second with 3 unanswered goals and a couple of fights (is it wrong for me to love the fact that Hollweg got his ass kicked?!?)... only to see that lead evaporate.
What I was going to write halfway through the third period: This is what we expected. The kind of performance we got in the past two nights is exactly what we expected from this club before the season started: a young team trying to find its way and learning to fight Ronnie Wilon's War. Being the devout fan(atic)s that we are, we got excited after those two wins, and were feeling a bit glum after the loss to the Bolts. Rest easy though Leafs faithful, the sky isn't falling on this team. They are going win some and they are going to lose some - but the key is to see that they are developing, skating hard and learning to play this game the right way. We saw that after the first period.
What I'm writing after the game: Shocked. Not only did the Leafs come back to tie it in the third, but they also beat Marty Brodeur in a shootout, with the Borat-Poni-Stajan line leading the way throughout. Stajan finally had a big night, with 2 goals and an assist, and this team actually clicked on the PP. It wasn't always pretty, but these guys played hard (after the first) and gutted out a win tonight. Color me impressed. [UPDATE: forgot to mention the shootout! The decision to stick with Vesa and not use a defensive d-man as a shooter were obviously a good ones, and they paid off. Its about time we won a shootout. Looks like someone's been practicing!]
Our Luke and Savior: We at TPTFUA haven't weighed in on Luke Schenn yet. Even though its a moot point, let me say that I see the merit in sending him down, letting him play against guys his age and letting him captain Team Canada at the Juniors to develop some leadership experience. But, on the other hand, the guy looks like an NHL player. A young and inexperienced one at times, but he looks like he belongs. Simply pointing to his +/- stats and yelling "See! He shouldn't be here!" as some windbags have done, doesn't do it for me. This kid is getting the best kind of experience you can get in any type of profession - on the job training against the world's best. If he were obviously sinking, then of course you'd have to send him down. But he's not. He's not just keeping his head above water though - he actually looks like he belongs. In fact, Wilson had him out there in final 2 minutes of the 3rd with the game on the line and some crucial moments in OT (you can't pin the penalty he took in OT on him - it was a broken stick and could have happened to anyone). This is a new day in professional sports and simply because you're 18 doesn't mean you can't compete with the big boys. My vote: keep him around.
Question: Brendan Shannahan doesn't want to wait around for the Blue Shirts anymore. If Mats won't come back to TO (and I believe he won't), does anyone want to add Shanny to the Leafs this year (assuming he would sign)? My gut says NO - give that PT to the young guys and continue to help them develop. But part of me wants to say YES - his veteran leadership and tutelage would go a long way for some of these young guys and he would add some grit to the lineup. We've got plenty of cap space, why not take a 1 year flyer on the guy? Please discuss in the comment section!