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If it’s Thursday, on the road, here’s a tip: start Scrivens

It looked like Wilson was going back to The Monster in goal Thursday night in St. Louis.  But a gut feel evidently told him to run with Ben Scrivens—and we all saw the result.

Scrivens, so quickly thrown under the bus after a tough night against the Bruins, had wowed us just last Thursday with a standout game in Columbus against the struggling Blue Jackets.  But after the Bruin encounter, and his mildly shaky third period work in a loss to the Panthers at home, Leafdom was abuzz about having to find a goalie—just about any goalie—given Gustavsson’s off and on struggles.

I still sense we are hitting the panic button a bit too soon.  Young goalies need to play, need to develop, gain confidence—something which can leave them very quickly, especially in a market like this (which has eaten up an awful lot of pretty talented goalies in the 50 plus years I’ve been following the Leafs).

I’m not suggesting there haven’t been some bad goals and less than stellar outings this season since Reimer went down with an injury (and for that matter, throughout the three plus years of Wilson’s tenure here), but we are talking about goalies who, combined, don’t have a full season’s worth of NHL game experience under their belts.  

In any event, before I sound like an apologist for Gustavsson, Wilson’s instincts certainly proved solid against the Blues.  Scrivens seemed to thrive as he got more shots and by the third period, made some ten bell saves—including a great reaction glove against former Leaf Steen, who has been one of the better producers on a generally under-performing Blue teams this season.

I’ll take 37 saves on 39 shots, many of them tough ones, any night.  I'll also take that shootout save on Steen, too.

Wilson knew this before the rest of us:  if it’s Thursday night, on the road, start Ben.


A couple of game notes:

  • I mentioned yesterday that sometimes, a seemingly meaningless goal is not meaningless at all.  When Kessel scored against the Panthers Tuesday night, it had no impact in a game Florida was running away with.  But a scorer likes to score and that Florida goal no doubt helped Phil’s confidence, not that it was waning.  He scored again to put the Leafs up 2-0 against the Blues.  We may see Phil on a roll now for a while.  His “slump” was no slump at all, and certainly not as prolonged a dry spell as we have seen in his first two years in Toronto.
  • As Ray Ferraro mentioned on the TSN broadcast, Lupul had a hard-working night and was very effective.
  • Dupuis used his body at times and caught my eye.  He’ll have to stand out a bit more when injured players return, to ensure his spot in the line-up every night.
  • Brown was aggressive on the forecheck in the third, managing a big hit in the Blues end at one point.  
  • Am I alone in sensing that Lombardi is working through a tough time? After showing early jump in his return from a long-term injury, his game has flattened out somewhat.  It’s a long season and he may be somebody that could use a break once in a while.
  • Schenn’s minutes were up, a good sign.
  • Bozak won a ton of draws, (that’s one of the things we first noticed about him when he joined the Leafs).  Two assists should give him a shot of confidence that he can produce offensively.  I still believe he can be an effective all-around player.
The Blues had a lot of the play in the last two periods, but for at least 48 hours, we can't complain that our goalies haven't stolen a game.

Bring on the Senators.


  1. Another nice read. Always a fan of VLM, just not always a commentor. I think Leafs Nation realizes we may be overachieving, but like you, I'll take any win at anytime. Bring on the Sens

  2. I agree with your thoughts on the game. I particularly liked Lupul's effort all night and was glad to see 2 goals on the power play in the first period.

    Overall my impression after the game was that we got all the good bounces tonight. Shots that could have deflected into the Leaf net went just wide. No complaints, but just saying...

    I must say I am concerned that after the first period they seemed to play the game in survival mode. Was this the plan set out by the coaches between periods or did the Blues force them into it? Since Wilson has said their strength is their ability to forecheck and create chances, I really doubt that it was a deliberate coaching strategy to sit back and defend.
    That would indicate the Leafs just had an inability (or were unwilling) to effectively respond to the Blues and establish concerted counterattacks of their own to relieve the pressure. That inability (or unwillingness) needs to be addressed for the future.

    Having said that, I was happy for Scrivens and I was glad for the 2 points. Last night was a struggle but ultimately a successful one - for a pleasant change!

  3. It is funny how quickly the panic button gets hit in Leafs Nation. Two losses, albeit, blow outs, and we're screaming for trade, and think the wheels are falling off.

    I think it is a result of being underacheivers, especially these last few years that make fans so hesitant to believe that the Leafs are on the way up, slowly.

  4. Great Read - enjoy your comments. Like you, I dont want to be an apologist for Gustavsson but what I saw last night and the Florida game (was in attendance) was a team that collapsed down, not in the slot, but in the crease creating chaos for both goalies. I really think this is a defensive coordination issue and the press is crucifying the Monster (and to a lesser extent Scrivens). Yes, he’s looked very uncomfortable but why doesn't the press talk about how many missed clearing attempts caused the Blues goal last night. I often wonder if I’m watching the same game as the press report on!

  5. You know, so often in the past few years we've been on the other side of statements like: "if we'd just had a few deflections" or "we outshot them but their goalie stoned us". On the plus side, it's nice - and somewhat novel - to be on the other side for a change!
    Lots to enjoy last night. Loved the puck movement on those two power play goals. Nice to see Schenn finding his hitting form, and I'm still amazed at Gardiner's poise under pressure. Generally, he gets out of trouble way more than he gets into it, though he does get pushed off the puck a bit too much for my liking. The first line looked dangerous, the third line was effective, and how about Grabovski taking on Berglund after that hit on MacArthur?
    I agree with David above - there are definitely some defensive co-ordination issues. And why we're having so much trouble clearing the puck is beyond me.
    But it seems to me that so far this year, we're winning the sorts of games we'd lose in previous years. And that keeps the Leaf flame burning brightly in the O'Malley heart!

  6. Andrew...many thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Thank you.

    Ed, well said. Sometimes, for all the apparent issues that still need to be dealt with, you just have to take yes for an answer and grab the two points, get on the bus and get out of town...

    Jack, I tend to agree...the panic comes in part because of long-term history, but primarily the last half-dozen or so years. Any little sidestep makes Leaf world edgy!

    Thanks as well, David. We seem to see The Monster much the same way. I'm not suggesting he's "the answer", but it's not as though he has played horribly five games in a row. He makes some big stops, just needs that every-elusive confidence, which he might only get going somewhere else, unfortunately.

    As always, Gerund O', I appreciate your insights. Things to work on, for sure, but we need to accept the breaks when we get them and bank the points. We may well need them come April....

  7. You know who stood out for me the most last night? Tyler Bozak. Brother and I caught the game with a couple of pints and we made an effort to just watch him- in what was a pretty crappy team effort by the Leafs (although I thought they worked hard to preserve a lead, I think they should have simply taken the game to St. Louis without taking the foot off the gas. Shedding the lead looked pretty unavoidable for a while, and I had that feeling early that we were going to need to score a 3rd goal to win it) over and over he was playing smart, aggressive hockey and almost single-handedly keeping the Leafs in the game beside Scrivens. Am very impressed with his demeanor and how he has joyfully accepted his role with the Leafs. A keeper of a player.

  8. I'm with you on Bozak, KidK...just think he is playing under the radar, doing his job, will contribute on offence, etc....