I attended the first Leafs home game of the post-Kyle Wellwood era tonight. After the victory in Detroit on Thursday, Leafs fans were a little more (cautiously) optimistic about the Leafs team this year. Of course, there are the omnipresent Leafs fans who figure “This is the year” every year. They’re the ones you see on TV all the time that give other more realistic Leafs fans a bad name and make people think that all Leafs fans are moronic sheep. Anyway, I hope tonight’s game wasn’t a more realistic indication of how the Leafs will do this year. Are they going to beat great teams like the Red Wings every time? Certainly not, but hopefully we won’t see too many more 6-1 losses either.
Curtis Joseph played the third and didn’t allow a single goal, much to the delight of the Joseph-loving Toronto fans. Strangely, one of the biggest ovations he got (with the crowd erupting into chants of “CuJo! CuJo! CuJo!”) was after he was beaten by a shot that rang off of the goal post.
A total of one penalty for both teams in the first period.
Twenty of Canada’s medal winners from the Beijing Olympics were there for the ceremonial faceoff. They got a well-deserved standing ovation, and then led the crowd of almost 20,000 in singing the national anthem a capella style. No matter what big musical star they could have gotten to sing the anthem, it couldn’t have been any cooler than 20,000 people singing in unision. It was amazing.
Mike Van Ryn made a very nice defensive move in the first, stripping a Montreal player of the puck. It was a play that Bryan McCabe could never have made, but of course you knew that already — I did say it was a very nice defensive move.
The Leafs were playing their second game of the season, and it showed. There were lots of missed passes and lots of shots that missed the net by a foot or more. It seemed that there were a lot of players just out of place all night. The Habs would take a shot and the rebound (whether off the goalie or the boards) would go straight to another Montreal player. The Leafs would take a shot and the rebound would either go straight to a Montreal defenseman or would coast all the way to the neutral zone because there were no Leafs players anywhere near it. The Habs played like it was their twentieth game of the season — less missed passes, less players out of place, less penalties… though it’s possible that Montreal is simply a better team.
Penalty killing was awful. The Leafs had five penalties in the second period, leading to four Montreal power play goals. I suppose it improved in the third though, as the Leafs had four more penalties but no goals allowed.
In the second period, Carlo Colaiacovo (I spelled that right without even looking it up first! ) tripped over a Montreal player who was knocked down by another Leaf and limped off the ice in obvious pain. I thought maybe Captain Glass was injured again and would be out for a few weeks, but he returned in the third period, so maybe this should have been listed under “The Good”.
Toskala was shaky for the first two periods, though a few of the six goals he allowed weren’t his fault at all.
Toronto only scored one goal, and it wasn’t even that nice a goal. They had another one called back because Antropov directed it in with his arm. This was on Montreal’s backup goaltender — they didn’t want to waste Carey Price on Toronto.
Final score: Montreal 6 Toronto 1. ‘Nuff said.
The Leafs could really have used the scoring touch from their former number one center — Kyle Wellwood. Or Darcy Tucker. Or that other guy, what’s his name? You know, that Swedish guy? Anyway, the team is rebuilding and we all know that when a team is rebuilding, there are going to be some ugly games. But despite the final score, I don’t think this was really one of them. A young rebuilding team was simply beaten by a more talented team. They put up a good fight and as Andy Frost mentioned in the post-game show on the radio, the Leafs did not mail it in in the third period, they came out and played hard. You gotta respect that.