So by now you know that I attended last night's game in LA. This was my first chance to see our new-look Leafs up close and in person. I've seen them on TV and watched the highlights on the net all season long, but of course seeing the team live and in person is a whole new experience.
Apologies to those who've followed them that way all season long, but I've got some thoughts on the game and the team more generally:
1. The game was BOR-ing for the first two periods. Not a lot of back and forth. Not a ton of hitting. 1 goal. And generally sloppy play. Shows the effects of an east coast team going west.
2. I love Grabs. His flowing mane, his speed, his flowing mane. From the Department of Redundancy Department: I think he was a steal. Burke mentioned him by name in one of his interviews on Saturday and I can see why. On a team that is lacking in a lot of areas, he could definitely be one of those "top 6" forwards that Burke wants so badly. Plus, he impressed by picking up a power play game winner. Atta boy.
3. Nothing the Kings did really impressed me. They have a few bright young stars, but for a team that's been "developing" for several years now, they just didn't do it for me. The Leafs came out and played lifelessly for the first 2 periods, and yet the Kings still couldn't capitalize (with the exception of course being their score on their first shot of the game). I sure as hell hope that the Leafs build-from-scratch effort looks more like the Penguins than the Kings 2-3 years from now.
4. Ian White. During a 4-on-3 PK (I think) that could have broken the Leafs' back, Wilson threw White and Schenn out there together. I've seen him have that kind of confidence in these youngsters before, but man its different seeing it in person. While I love Schenn, White was the key guy on that shift, singlehandedly saving a goal from going in. His stat line was a simple: 0 goals, 0 assists, even +/-, 1 SOG, and yet he was the first star of the game, in the enemy's arena. He threw hits and generally appeared to be all over the ice. I do not believe he is a front line, long term solution for this team, but benching him during the first part of the season obviously lit a fire that is still burning in him.
Ahh, who the hell am I kidding?!? Its all because of his 'stache!
5. This team lacks a go-to guy. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe you already knew that. But when you see this team in person, it becomes glaringly obvious. Back in the day (if his mood was right that night), you could count on Mats to start taking over a game (in the way that he used to do it, not the way a guy like Ovechkin does it). While our guys did come back and win, the reality is that there was no one who inspired the kind of confidence that Mats used to. Maybe I've been denial about it all season, and seeing the team without him for the first time was like seeing an ex-girlfriend who you never quite got over, but man I missed Mats last night. Maybe Brophy was just speculating, but we need a big time player like Nash. Badly. In fact, we need one so badly that we'll delve into some trade thoughts in another post.
6. Vesa. It was a tense final 10 minutes as the Leafs clung to a 1 goal lead, with the Kings pressuring, throwing a ton of shots his way and crashing the net. The thousands of Leafs fans in attendance were chanting "Go Leafs Go" and Vesa stood in there. Hats off to the guy. Yesterday I predicted an ass-whooping up in tonight's game vs. SJ. However, if Vesa can play like that against his old club, our guys stand a chance. Its too early to say if he's found "it," but play like that makes you confident for the long term prospects of him in the Leafs net.
So there you have it - my thoughts on last night. And yes, to those who've asked, that was my wife and I on Leafs TV last night waving to the camera (her in a pink jersey). Thanks for all the texts, calls and facebooks messages about it!