I’m not going to lie. I saw the Leafs go down 3-0 in the first, and I missed most of the comeback because I decided a beer run was going to be much more beneficial to my evening than watching the Leafs stumble through the last two periods of yet another stinker. And it’s just because of days like yesterday that Leaf Nation remains one of the most committed and loyal fan bases in all of sport. Just when you finally decide, “You know what, this isn’t worth my night,” the good old Blue and White comes through in miraculous form.
Let’s start with the bad and move to the good. Regardless of the outcome, the first period effort put out by the Leafs was absolutely miserable. After giving up the initial goal, the Leafs then allowed two more goals in a span of just ten seconds, seemingly icing the game before it had really begun. Grabbo’s giveaway on the 3rd goal was inexcusable, as was Brett Lebda’s miscue on the blueline that led to what should have been a backbreaker for the Buds in the form of Martin Erat’s shorthanded goal just under five minutes into the second period.
However, for once, instead of continuing to shoot themselves in the feet, the Leafs finally found another team that was willing to do the same, as the Predators went on to take six straight penalties in the second period, resulting in two 5-on-3 advantages that Kris Versteeg capitalized on. Mikhail Grabovski would atone for his earlier mistake by scoring the game-tying goal, while Nikolai Kulemin continued his solid play with the game-winner.
- Grabovski now has four goals and seven points in his last five games, for a total of 13 points on the year. He’s beginning to show some of the talent and skill that Leaf fans have been hoping he’d provide for some time now. Let’s just hope he keeps working hard and putting the puck in the net. That -4 rating he pulled in last night won’t make anybody feel any better about his defensive abilities, either.
- Kulemin, another key player in the win, now has five goals and 10 points through the first 17 games. Not exactly superstar numbers, but nothing to look down on either. If he can continue producing, it could play a huge role in sparking offense from whomever his linemates end up being, since he’s been relatively consistent on a number of different line combinations.
- A big game from Clarke MacArthur, who now leads the team with 16 points after his 3-assist effort last night. He and Grabbo are tied for the team lead in assists with nine on the year, while he seemed to be right at home on that top powerplay unit last night, as the Leafs converted 50% of their opportunities, vaulting their powerplay percentage on the year to 18th in the league.
- While the Leafs’ powerplay won the game for them last night, the penalty kill was perfect as well, denying all four Nashville opportunities. Before we start getting all high and mighty about that, though, remember that Nashville is one of the worst powerplay teams in the league at the moment, and they don’t do a great job killing either, ranking in the bottom third of the league in both categories, with their powerplay even worse than the Leafs’ coming into last night’s tilt.
- Jonas Gustavsson was named the game’s third star (behind Versteeg and Kulemin), despite playing just 13 minutes in the third period. He came in cold when Giguere slightly injured his groin on a desperation save against Cal O’Reilly, stopped all six shots he faced, including a couple big ones in the 3rd when the Predators were pressing to tie the game. No word yet on how long Jiggy will be out, but I’m not worried with the way the Monster has played as of late.
- Nazem Kadri got his first NHL point last night, assisting on Versteeg’s first goal.
The Leafs will have the night off tonight, as they prep for tomorrow night’s home game against the struggling New Jersey Devils. They’ll finish the weekend off with a rivalry game in Montreal, the first time the two teams have met since Opening night, when the Leafs kicked off their wild start to the year with a 3-2 win.