Leafs 1 v. Devils 2: Swedish Surprise
The Leafs gave a better account of themselves last night but in the end it was the same story as Thursday night. The Devils were intent on stifling the Leafs and with Brodeur in net it was always going to be a difficult proposition to score. Mikael Tellqvist got the surprise start as J-S Aubin was felled by a stomach bug (don't the team doctors give flu shots?) and he was solid when called upon.
Jamie Langenbrunner opened the scoring in the second period after a Leafs turnover left him alone at the top of the circle. He blasted a shot that beat Telly (he would probably want it back) on the blocker side. In the third period, Patrick Elias scored his first even strength goal of the year on what will turn out to be the oddest goal of the season. His shot ricocheted off Kubina and Bell redirected it into the net when he tried to swat it out of the air. Unfortunately, on a night when the top line of the Soviet Bloc and Frodo managed 10 shots but no goals, it was one goal too many. I think I might stop writing Game Day Thoughts since the opposition seems to fulfill my worse-case scenario even though a player like Elias hadn't scored an EV goal all year. I feel like John Candy in Delirious.
Darcy Tucker pulled on back on a slap shot from the blueline that Brodeur absolutely wiffed on but it was all the struggling Leafs offence could muster. The last four minutes saw a flurry of action but it was all for naught as the Devils crammed every available player into the slot which made getting a shot through next to impossible.
This game also featured two instances of what I think is the dumbest penalty: slashing the stick. Jeff O'Neill and Hal Gill both got called for this infraction as they each slapped the stick out of a Devils' players hands. When I was in minor hockey this was something that made you laugh at the player that dropped the stick in the NHL apparently it's a heinous crime. What is most frustrating is that the refs are so maddeningly inconsistent. Throughout the game Devils players were slashing Leafs' forwards sticks in front of the net without a call. Also, sometimes the refs only call it if the stick breaks but not if it's knocked out of a player's hands. Basically, it is a stupid rule. A slash is to the body otherwise it's tying up the players stick and if he drops it then that should teach him to get a better grip on it. Rant over.
Monday night the Leafs face the resurgent Islanders as Raycroft returns to the net and Suglobov takes Belak's place in the lineup to try to jumpstart
The Final Word
The Devils needed him last night, playing most of the first two periods in their own end.
Rich Chere, The Star-Ledger, pinpoints the difference between the teams.
Entering the season, one of the major concerns about Toronto was its ability to find goal production from players other than Sundin. The Leafs found scoring depth for a while, with Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky, in particular, asserting themselves. Now, it's almost as if, with Sundin sidelined because of a torn ligament in his right elbow, those pre-season prophecies of gloom are starting to be fulfilled.
Paul Hunter, Toronto Star, showing that if you hammer a story long enough it will eventually come true, kind of.