The Battle Of Ontario On The Day Of St. Patrick


Any time the Leafs play there is usually good reason to drink, but having a game on St. Patricks Day is twice as fun.  The Leafs, as historians will remind us are the offspring of the Toronto St. Pats before being purchased and renamed by one Conn Smythe.  This game was a testament to Conn Smythe and everything that he loved about hockey.  “If you can beat em’ in the alley you can beat em’ on the ice” was the montra of the legendary owner, and this leafs team fought hard from start to finish.  They still didn’t resemble a team that was going to beat the world, but they played tough hockey.

What would have truly won Smythe over, and will likely win Carlyle over, was that there was no role player running around holding the bag.  Mikhail Grabovski stood up and took on Chris Neil who was making a run a rookie Carter Ashton.  If nothing else in this point of the season of empty victories it is nice to see them get upset and finally show life.  They should not be happy about the lot they have in life, they should be fighting anybody that looks at them funny.  It was perhaps one of the more entertaining games of the season.

If Leafs fans can take any comfort in the latter part of this season, take the fact that the coach and gm are now in lock step on philosophy.  The team will be rough and they will fight.  The names on the roster may or may not change, but not one player will be encouraged to avoid physicality going forward, and that is the best tribute to the late owner the Leafs.

Highlights of the game:

-The Carlyle trap will put people to sleep plain and simple.  It is unsophisticated and not very entertaining, but it looks like it works.  In short, it is playoff hockey.  The Leafs look like they are finally embracing this style of play and with exception of the loss in Florida the results are showing.

-Welcome back Mike Komisarek.  I know the fashionable thing is to beat this guy up but he has been much better since the Leafs started playing a tighter systems game.  Dave Farrish and Randy Carlyle will make this guy better as his skill set is more suited towards positional play and shot blocking.

-James Reimer was a little shaky early on, but was steady and deserved the win.  Carlyle was clear about his expectations of his goaltenders giving the team a chance to win the game, and he did exactly that.  He should start again Tuesday night after 2 very good performances.

-The Power Play was back to life getting goals from Kessel and Phaneuf.  Ottawa plays a very aggressive penalty kill, but the Leafs did manage on a 4 on 3 and then a 5 on 3 advantage to get shots through Ben Bishop.

-The penalty killing of the Leafs has still been good, but that really goes back to before Wilson was fired.

-Hard to say Tim Connolly deserves $4.5 million a season, but also hard to find anybody making that kind of cash that blocks as many shots.  He is by every stretch of the imagination overpaid, but he is a good player and seems like a good foot soldier on the bench.

-Every win under coach Carlyle has been by a score of 3-1.  Odd coincidence, but worth pointing out.

-Leafs are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but need to win nearly every game they play to make it.  By this virtue, they are eliminated from the playoffs.

-Kessel needs 3 goals for 100 since joining the Maple Leafs.