After what was a pretty damn good effort from the rest of the Leafs tonight, including a last minute goal from Phil Kessel to tie the game, the crowd at the ACC was let down by the primary weakness that has plagued this team since the lockout: its goaltending. While Jonas Gustavsson made one or two big saves in the 3rd period to keep the Leafs in it, had he been able to keep his legs shut on goals 2 and 3, the opportunity for him to whiff as bad as he did on the game-winner in overtime wouldn’t have even been presented. This is not to say that the Leafs were perfect tonight, but they deserved better than what they got.
- After a brutal road trip, it was great to see the Leafs get off to a quick start, peppering Martin Brodeur early, and getting a good forecheck going. The MGK line in particular was off and running, and kept that momentum all night long.
- That line produced the Leafs’ 2nd goal of the night, a product of Mikhail Grabovski’s hustle and Clarke MacArthur’s opportunistic shooting. The hit Grabbo laid on Danius Zubrus late in the game was pretty damn awesome, too, especially given the serious size mismatch. It’s tough to believe there’s a lot of discussion about whether or not he’ll be traded or re-signed this summer, but such is the nature of the beast, I guess.
- Dion Phaneuf played one of his better games, and the hit on Zach Parise, followed by his fight with David Clarkson, was a much of a momentum changer as he could have offered in a grind-it-out game like tonight was. While he did blow the coverage on the first Devils’ goal, he was playing forward at the time, having just come out of the box. Not an excuse, just pointing it out.
- Phil Kessel continued the best season of his career, with a huge goal that at least salvaged a much-needed point. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it got the job done.
- The 3rd line was at least somewhat effective with some good shifts and Tim Connolly’s 9th goal of the year. They’d been damn near invisible over the last few games, and it’s strange that they would somehow find themselves with Colby Armstrong sitting in the press box.
- There’s no question, the blame for tonight’s loss lays squarely at Jonas Gustavsson’s feet. The first goal was a product of some busted coverage, but the fact that his legs were spread further than a gold medal gymnast on the Devils’ other three goals is inexcusable. Yes, he had a couple big saves, including one on Ilya Kovalchuk’s breakaway, but he cost them the game – there’s no question. Alexei Ponikarovsky’s goal was a disgraceful goal to give up, especially at that crucial of a point in the game. To be honest, while there’s an argument to be made about whether or not he or James Reimer should be the starter, there’s really no argument about whether or not Gustavsson should be re-signed in the offseason. If he’s to be an NHL starter long-term, it’s not likely going to be in this town.
- Normally I’m a big fan of the Leafs’ 4th line, but they were less than spectacular tonight. David Steckel ended up being a -2, and he’s lucky it wasn’t worse, as that line gave up a number of pretty decent chances. When they’re rolling like they should, they spend their shifts dumping the puck and banging the hell out of d-men on the forecheck. When that’s not happening, they can’t be hemmed in their own zone like they were tonight.
Deja Oh Man