Leafs still a work in progress, without the work
Photo courtesy of NHLI via Getty Images
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron pretty much nailed it after his Bruins took the Toronto Maple Leafs to the woodshed Saturday night in a wild 4-1 win in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bergeron – post-game – talked about “compete” and “determination.”
His team had it; the opposition (especially the key guys) had very little.
This is how you win in the playoffs, folks.
Are we surprised?
Not a mite.
Bergeron surely knows how to win, having been a key cog in the Bruins Cup triumph back in 2011. He’s also won a number of gold medals – the 2004 World Championships, 2005 World Junior Championships, 2010 Winter Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics.
He’s not a guy who drops the gloves. He’s a guy who competes hard, finishes his checks, is a killer on draws and plays heads-up, smart hockey.
Kind of like a number of his teammates.
Now I’m not going to anoint the Bruins this early into a playoff series (Toronto and Boston go back at it tied 1-1 in Game 3 Monday night), but I like their game a whole heckuva lot more than T’ranna’s.
Face it, the Leafs need to light a fire under a few of their key guys. Hello there Auston Matthews, and hello there Freddie Gauthier who you’d never know was 6-5 and 235 lbs. given his resemblance to Bambi-on-ice. (Quite honestly, I don’t know why this guy is even playing).
If those two need a fire, William Nylander needs a blazing bonfire.
Nylander plays perimeter hockey like no one else. The only time you see the king of finesse near the front of the net is if he’s sent in on a breakaway.
As well, his constant grin and not-a-care-in-the-world expression doesn’t belong anywhere near this series. Or any series for that matter.
But again, I’m not in the least bit surprised.
This is the type of team general manager Kyle Dubas wants: Passive yet superbly skilled. For the record, Dubas rostered up the same kind of club with Sault Ste. Marie at the junior level.
There’s not an inkling of toughness here in Toronto now, and as Bergeron could attest, you don’t win in the playoffs without a healthy amount of grit and gumption and compete and determination.
The saddest part of this tale could be that the Leafs ‘lone’ warrior is also kind of a very loose screw. Scratch the ‘kind of.’
Nazem Kadri was Toronto’s best player Saturday, until he wasn’t. Kadri was running over Bruins left and right and scored to Buds lone goal.
Then in Kadri fashion, he took it way over the top when he attempted to separate Jake DeBrusk’s neck from his head.
Clearly suspend-able, Kadri’s action means he’s gone, and clearly that’s the end of any semblance of muscle on the Toronto roster.
Kadri played with passion and emotion, I’ll give him that. In that very large respect, he’ll be missed.
And for the record Ottawa Fan, Bryan Murray desperately wanted to land Kadri at the 2009 draft and had a brief conversation on the draft floor with then-Toronto GM Brian Burke as to whether the Leafs would snag him with the No. 7 pick (Murray’s Senators had the No. 9 pick and had to settle on Jared Cowen).
But back to the matter at hand: The Leafs can still win this thing but it’s going to take some significant fire to light up the likes of Matthews and Nylander to get them “competing.”
NEWS, NOTES AND NOTIONS: While the Ottawa Senators can only sit back and wait and watch until the entry draft arrives (June 21-22, Vancouver), tension was high this weekend as the AHL Belleville Sens made a playoff push. Unfortunately for the organization, Belle-Vegas fell just short . . . Loving the Pittsburgh-Islanders set-to (and I knew I would). This is a classic match-up between an experienced bunch and guys-who-just-don’t-know-any-better. Yup, those ‘guys’ are getting it done . . . Barry Trotz for coach of the year? Yup. But don’t disclude Craig Berube in St. Louis and Rick Tocchet in Arizona; two of my all-time favourite Flyers. Got to know both, Tocchet especially, during the late 1980s when other teams would catch the ‘Philly Flu.’ . . . Tocchet and buddy Peter Zezel were frequent guests on my sports call-in show at Scarboro Television. Never turned down an invite . . . At-the-time Flyer Derrick Smith would pop in as well. Note that Derrick’s son Dalton was a physical presence for the Ottawa 67’s for four full seasons (2009-2012). Dalton played this past season in AHL Rochester.