In a game eerily similar to the 2009/10 season opener last season versus the Montreal Canadiens which saw the Toronto Maple Leafs outplay the Habs only to squander a late game lead setting the tone for a terrible 0-7-1 start to the year, this time around the Maple Leafs hung on for a hard fought 3-2 victory. I’d say it was a fair result though I think the Canadiens were the slightly better team overall and probably could have just as easily won this contest. However, a win is a win and this is a superb start for the Toronto Maple Leafs who hung tough and managed to protect a lead, something the team just couldn’t do in the past 2-3 years.
Here are a few musings from the season opener:
-I know it was the season (and home) opener but that pregame ceremony was long and it had me thinking back to last season’s plethora of pregame ceremonies and the Maple Leafs seemingly coming out flat after each of them. The emotion was still running pretty high after this one thankfully, but I hope this isn’t a trend going forward during this season.
-The Leafs came out strong in the first period getting an unlikely goal from checking line centre Tim Brent (assist to Dion Phaneuf) and besides the goal given up it was a great debut period for the team.
-Phil Kessel continues to impress, one of the best pure goal scorers the Leafs have ever had, maybe THE best.
-The Habs appeared to be the “better coached” team and were more organized it appeared for a lot of the game. I still can’t shake the idea that given the current type of roster the Leafs possess a more defensive minded coach would be a better fit if the Leafs are serious about making the playoffs this season.
-Some pretty terrible penalty calls against the Habs benefited the Leafs in terms of keeping the momentum even though the power-play didn’t look strong on the night.
-I hate to admit it but P.K. Subban is legit, he skates well, handles the puck reasonably well and plays a brash, physical style of play from the backend. The Habs have found a keeper.
-Carl Gunnarsson looked awfully shaky early though he rebounded slightly but not the greatest debut.
-Luke Schenn looked strong for most of the game outside of a few turnovers which I feel the forwards are as much to blame as the Leafs have terrible spacing most of the night.
-Dion Phaneuf played one of his better overall games as a Toronto Maple Leaf, and his first as the captain. He and Francois Beauchemin kept the game simple and were a strong pairing for most of the night.
-As previously discussed JS Giguere was a huge difference maker playing a solid and at times spectacular game making some very timely saves near the end of the third period. This is a huge factor in any potential Leafs playoff berth as we are going to need the steady goaltending all season.
-Clarke MacArthur scored a beautiful goal (the winner) in the third period on a beautiful deke and backhand score on Carey Price. It will be great when either Tyler Bozak hits the second line or the Leafs finally replace Mikael Grabovski who is just not an acceptable top six centre. He is still way too weak on his skates, makes some terrible decisions in the neutral zone and is probably the very bane of Brian Burke’s existence.
-The checking line of Freddy Sjostrom-Tim Brent-Colby Armstrong did their job getting in the grills of the Canadiens top line and trying to establish a fore check and keeping the game simple, kudos on the great effort.
All in all Ron Wilson and the Buds have to be happy with the effort however they were outplayed a good portion of this game and they need to shore up the abundance of turnovers, especially in their own zone if they hope on stringing a few decent win streaks together this season. But you have to give credit where credit is due, the Leafs persevered and they managed to squeak out a win in their first game.