For a club poised to face immediate 0-7-1 questions with any result other than a season-opening win, it was big for the Leafs to get the first ‘w’ right off the bat last night against Montreal.
But beyond two points in the bag and a nice moment for opening scorer Tim Brent, what did it mean? I won’t be running this piece after every Leafs game, but I will try to post it as often as possible so as to keep my finger on the pulse of Leafs Nation.
Game 1 – What did we learn?
The scoring depth is there
In spite of an uninspiring power play unit and an excellent point by the Star’s Damien Cox regarding the team’s top two lines, the Buds’ strong showing offensively suggested that scoring would not be a problem area with this team. We all know Phil Kessel can score and, sure enough, he potted his first of the season in the first period. And while Brent’s goal was more of a happy moment than a harbinger of things to come, Clarke MacArthur’s game winner in the third offered legitimate hope that scoring could come from a sneaky-dangerous second line, even if they do end up changing around the pieces a bit.
Giguere is needed
There are going to be plenty of nights like this, where the Leafs find themselves in a tight, one-goal game in the dying moments and it will take a mentally tough, experienced netminder to keep the team afloat in those situations. For all his potential, Jonas Gustavsson is not that player right now, meaning that Jean-Sebastien Giguere needs to be the man between the posts for now. His kick save in the dying seconds and, simply, his general presence last night helped Toronto hang on for the win. I’m not sure that game ends in regulation if Gustavsson’s in net.
Schenn rises, Gunnarsson falls
Elite young defencemen are en vogue throughout the NHL (Drew Doughty, Tyler Myers, Shea Weber, etc.), so why can’t the Maple Leafs have one of their own? Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here, but Luke Schenn, who is still a few weeks away from his 21st birthday, looked like the most effective rearguard on the team while getting extending minutes, mostly paired with Tomas Kaberle. Carl Gunnarsson, however, looked like a shaky shell of his last season’s self when he emerged as a blue line staple. In the third pairing with Mike Komisarek, he struggled with basic puck-handling in his own end, a flaw which directly led to Dustin Boyd scoring Montreal’s first goal.
Orr can be effective without fisticuffs
Even without a single fight taking place in the season opener, Colton Orr found a way to use his physicality in a positive, productive manner. The team enforcer dished out a punishing hit to Tomas Plekanec that clearly made the Habs forward a little skittish and took him out of the play, leading to Brent’s marker.
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Written by Ben Fisher