I will start out by apologizing for the delay in the blog, customs was quite backed up with Leafs fans crossing back into Ontario. The game was not bad by any means, but the Leafs team that we see presently has a great reliance on speed and transition. That was very much lacking tonight and its going to be tough for them to win games when that is the case.
-The leafs penalty kill. They had two opportunities to execute what has been the biggest weakness in their game, and boy did they ever. It must be said that the Sabres are not exactly an electric power play, but the sabres do have goals with the man advantage in two of the four games played this season. The killers were aggressive, they were tenacious, they were everything that they had not been prior to the turn of the calender year. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
-Nazem Kadri is working his way toward being a regular on the scoresheet. If only his size could be as good as his hands.
-Kulemin, Grabovski, and Crabb had another productive outing. This has been the best stretch of games by Kulemin in some time
-Matthew Lombardi continues to impress me. His speed is apparent, and once he gets caught back up he will be an important part of this team.
– As good as the leafs penalty killing was in the game, the power play was equally bad. They had one good solid man advantage session with good puck possession but never were able to put a shot through. Also noticeable while enjoying the man advantage, all play was to the perimeter. This will not work against Ryan Miller, if he can see the puck he will stop it. The power play is still highly ranked in the overall picture, but nights like tonight can not happen to a team that often lives and dies with goals scored on special teams.
-Kessel and Lupul held scoreless for two consecutive games. These two have to be going for the Leafs to have a shot at the playoffs.
-While the first goal was in no way the fault of the Monster, he certainly would like to have the shot by Paul Gaustad back.
The Franson Factor – Cody Franson was slow to get started with the Leafs, but the skill and ability that were touted when he was acquired from Nashville are finally starting to shine through. He was very noticeable on the ice tonight and it was almost all good. His shot is as good as Dion Phaneuf’s, perhaps better when accuracy gets taken into account. He is starting to use his frame to box out, and he really is working hard to become what Brian Burke had promised back in September.
As I promised, I will also note the section full of Sabre fans that we sat with tonight, they were truly wonderful people. A little bit of good hearted razzing went on at first, but all in good fun. First Niagara Centre has become one of the better buildings to watch a game.