The talk of Stanley Cup parade routes and ring sizing is clearly ridiculous and many fans along with the entire Maple Leaf locker room will agree, however the pace of this train and the people jumping on board is gaining some steam.
Although last night’s 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins was nowhere near as entertaining or hardly the domination we witnessed Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, but Leaf players and coaching staff can take blocks in which to build upon from this game. Despite registering just 14 shots on goal, and a stagnant 12 minutes without a single puck reaching Marc-Andre Fleury, it was once again the defensive play which garnered the Maple Leafs a victory.
Facing 25 shots Jonas Gustavsson put up 5 incredible saves in the 3rd period, saves that surely would have changed the game if not made. Much was made of Head Coach Ron Wilson’s choice to play the “Monster” in a situation where the team was having success, but Wilson claimed he was simply sticking with a plan put in place weeks ago. The end result will prove another stretch of confidence within this team, in their ability to play strong in front of each goaltender.
A brief look at player statistics may cause some worry of poor vision, but yes that is Clarke MacArthur tied for the league lead in goals scored. The late free agent signing by Brian Burke is off to a roaring start with 4 goals in 3 games thus far. This past off-season MacArthur was awarded a 2.4 million arbitration hearing, a salary the Atlanta Thrashers chose to walk away from, leaving the speedy winger without a job for most of the summer. When asked of the nervous jitters surrounding the job search, MacArthur touched on his situation.
“Finally, one team called, and of course right away four or five others did.”
“I don’t really care what they’re thinking down (in Atlanta). I’m happy here.”
Looked upon for scoring, Phil Kessel and his first line seemed to have struggled throughout the entire game. With Kessel’s legs not going, it was the speedy grinder in Mike Brown that found himself riding shotgun on the first line for a few shifts.
“Sitting out a few shifts is a lot louder than my voice,” said head coach Ron Wilson. “The bench screams.”
The comparisons will be made, and the statistics measured, but to a man the players in the Leafs locker room are tired of hearing about last year. In fact many years passed are in the rear view as this team embarks on it’s first 3-0 start since the 1999-2000 season. Not all the wins will be pretty, but as this team grows it will be the types of victories that will define where they belong within the Eastern Conference.
“A win is a win,” Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. “In the third, we held on to a one-goal lead and that’s a big thing to do, especially against a team with that firepower. The biggest thing is we did what it took to win the hockey game. They all count.”
“We won the game against a team that was desperate for a home win, so I’m proud of the guys,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “They are learning how to win and learning the process.”
The lessons will continue and the teaching must stay sharp, but it is clear that this team looks to erase the past and grow as a group. The growth continues on this road trip, as the Leafs leave the NHL’s newest building in Pittsburgh and head to the oldest for a tilt with the New York Rangers in the big apple. If he sticks to his plan, look for Ron Wilson to play goaltender J.S. Giguere on Friday. Keeping the plan perfect, the Leafs will work towards a 4-0 start before returning home to face the New York Islanders on Monday.
About the Author
Written by RJ Emptage
Operations Manager of a retail chain in Southern Ontario (Sports Obsession). Specialize in licensed sports apparel and novelties (Visit sportsobsession.ca). Being from the Hamilton area I grew up and into a die-hard Toronto Maple Leaf Fan, and look forward to a bright blue and white future...(I know that sounds crazy doesn't it?) Love all things sports and the next best thing to playing them, is talking them!