The Good, The Bad And We’ll Get ‘Em Tomorrow

January 31, 2012; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) is tripped by Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Fleury makes a save during the shootout period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

Where to start. After playing two of the better road periods they’ve played all season, the Leafs pulled off maybe their most epic collapse of the seasons in the last half of the 3rd. What initially looked like it would be a great stepping stone for the Leafs to begin their playoff push with a signature win over one of the league’s hottest teams ended up garnering them nothing more than a point in the shootout loss. What’s unfortunate is that throughout the entire game, from start to finish, the Leafs had numerous chances to put this one well out of reach, and while some of the Penguins’ goals weren’t exactly highlight reel, it shouldn’t have even mattered.

The Good

  • Mikhail Grabovski had himself one heck of a birthday. 2 goals, an assist, and he should have had at least 2 more goals and another assist. He was flying all over the ice, as he has been all month long. Heck of a January for him – 8 goals, 16 points in 12 games.
  • The penalty kill remained perfect for the month of January, the first time a team had done so since either the 1974 Blackhawks or the 1989 Kings (I heard both reports tonight, and I’m too tired/depressed to fact-check right now).
  • Tyler Bozak had a pretty solid game. 58.8% in the faceoff dot, a beauty of a goal and a gorgeous chance to get a second that ended with him getting launched over Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • His lackluster shootout attempt aside, I liked Nazem Kadri’s game tonight. Tough and physical play and a huge hit on Paul Martin.
The Bad
  • Jonas Gustavsson’s inconsistency continues to drive me nuts. For a guy to make the type of saves he did in overtime, and yet give up some of the goals he gave up tonight, makes absolutely no sense. It’s like there’s got to be a weak goal or two scored on him most nights, a fact which, if he could eliminate from his game, would make him a pretty legitimate number one goalie. When he’s on his game, he’s proven he can hang. Momentary lapses continue to be his downfall.
  • That said, Gus can’t solely be blamed for tonight’s loss. This game should have been salted away long before he ever had a chance to blow it. Even after the weak 3rd goal trickled in, the Leafs had a golden opportunity to score shorthanded, and had two opportunities to get the puck deep in the Pittsburgh zone and take a shot at the empty net with Fleury on the bench. Forget the disallowed goal, Luke Schenn’s  clanger off the iron, his miss on a wide-open net, Kulemin’s tough bounce on a 2-on-0, Lombardi’s missed open netter, Grabovski’s post, and Kessel’s fanned shot in overtime, etc.
  • Speaking of Nikolai Kulemin, the dude needs to start scoring. I love the kid and think he’s got great potential, but this has been a tough, tough year for him around the net.
  • One quick solution to avoid the weak Gustavsson goals? Clear the damn puck. There’s at least five or six times a game that the puck should unequivocally have been out of the Leafs’ zone, but, lo and behold, it ends up back in the zone being kicked around behind the net and quite often, ending up in the back of the net.
Gotta get over this one quick, and rebound in front of the home crowd tomorrow night at the ACC. Let’s hope we don’t end up getting another 35 highlight-reel save performance from Fleury. Look on the bright side, people. The Buds jumped the Panthers to get into 8th, the Senators lost and Toronto now trails them by just 4 points with 3 games in hand. It’s all gonna be ooook, Leaf fans. Try not to cry yourselves to sleep tonight, the boys get another shot at it tomorrow.
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