Some musings on last night’s win over Toronto:
- The Leafs are getting there These aren’t the punching bag Maple Leafs of the past few years. The Leafs are getting close, and will probably make the playoffs this year. Jake Gardiner is the real deal back on the blue line, a stabilizing presence the Leafs have sorely lacked. His assist on the Leafs power play goal was a thing of beauty: he showed the rare gift of being able to slow things down, and wait…and wait…and wait until the seam he wanted opened up. The Leafs have a good one in Gardiner, but the rest of their blue line needs work. I think that will be their undoing this year. However, they’re much-improved. Hell, even Phil Kessel has added a two-way element to his game, as his hustle on the backcheck prevented a clean 2-on-1 for the B’s last night.
- Hey, who’s number 17? Nice of Milan Lucic to finally show up. Lucic scored his first goal since a 4-1 win over Florida on Feb. 24, and it was a big one. It was Lucic’s goal that energized the team and the crowd, and tilted the ice in the B’s direction. The best sign? How the goal was scored. Lucic got his classic “head of steam” going, and just kept going to the net. He didn’t make a cutesy deke, or look to pass. He was heading for the net the whole way, and found a weight lifted off his shoulders when he finally got there. His new spot on the third line didn’t last too long, but it looks like it did inject some life back into his skates.
- Patrice Bergeron continues to be perfect That’s all.
- On Marchand I have no beef with Marchand shooting the puck a tick after the whistle like he did in the third, as he’s trying to start trouble. But there’s no way it was an accident. He knew what he was doing, and it worked. Honestly, had Dion Phaneuf just roughed up Marchand a bit and not gotten into a shoving/gloved punching match with Andrew Ference, I don’t think he would’ve even gotten a penalty. It was a bit odd, however, to hear Andy Brickley defending Marchand, and Jack Edwards condemning him. Bizarro world.
- Newer guys did OK Aaron Johnson had a tough start to this game, as his pairing was on the ice for Nikolai Kulemin’s goal (and it was his shot that didn’t get through that lead directly to the breakaway). However, he and Matt Bartkowski acquitted themselves nicely as the game went on, making a number of good keeps at the blue line and some smart plays in their own zone. Bartkowski looks like a different player this year, far more confident and willing to skate with the puck. While Johnson has been solid for the most part, the Johnson-Ference pairing is easily the most frightening since the days of the Hunwick-Wideman duo.