December 7, 2010

Leafs Win! Leafs Win! Leafs Win! And Impressively too!

I don't know if it's that the Toronto Maple Leafs have suddenly realized that they won't be making the playoffs and that all the pressure of doing so has been alleviated or what (although that probably is it), but the Leafs are playing well, really. Case in point would be their 5-4 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday night, which was punctuated by this spin-o-rama winner on goalie Michal Neuvirth by none other than Mikhail Grabovski.

Yes, that Mikhail Grabovski, the same Mikhail Grabovski that was once a throw-in to the Montreal Canadiens' acquisition of highly touted fifth-round (FIFTH!) selection Greg Pateryn two years ago... the same Mikhail Grabovski that is on pace for a relatively decent 55 points this year. Not bad at all.

Of course, one can't forget that the Leafs are clicking as a whole right now, with goalie Jonas Gustavasson being the only one Leaf to consistently show up. He would probably have more wins to show for his effort than the mere four he has now if, you know, the Leafs bothered not to lead the league in six shutouts, which is honestly a fact I didn't check for the simple reason that it's just one of those stats that is just so astoundingly bad that it's pretty much impossible to be "bested" ("worsted?") by another club. If I'm wrong, I'm sure I'll hear about it, but pretty sure I ain't. In any case, the victory would not have been, were it not for Gustavsson's stick-save on Mathieu Perreault right after Grabovski's goal to help preserve the victory. Insane stuff.

And, of course, I would be remiss not to mention Clarke MacArthur, who made it all possible by  tying the game late and continuing to be the bright light in the Leafs line-up to help Leafs fans forget all about Phil Kessel's point-scoring troubles. Think the memory eraser from Men in Black, if you need a visual aid. He's that compact (5'11", 191 pounds) that the comparison actually works pretty well. He scored his second of the game late in the third to force the game into overtime. MacArthur has 21 points in 26 games is now on pace for a career-high 65 points. Kessel? He has just 15.

At this point, while Leafs fans would like to be getting more offense from the guy for which they traded three high draft picks to the Boston Bruins, they can't really be too picky and should be glad they're getting offense from anybody... especially after their latest shutout, a 5-0 embarrassment of a loss last Thursday to the Edmonton Oilers. So bad were they in that game that Leafs fans actually started a petition to try and convince general manager Brian Burke to trade Nazem Kadri away for Taylor Hall. Steve Tambellini has yet to get back to him, but I'm sure the offer's out there.

It can't be denied at this point in time that the Leafs have rattled off two-straight, great wins against superior opponents over the past few days against the Caps and the Bruins. In fact, every so often, the Leafs do find a way to compete, as they also proved against those very same Caps in an early-November shootout loss. The only conclusion to be derived? That the Leafs are actually good when they want to be... which is a horrifying thought. For Leafs fans, think the same feeling you get when pondering the likelihood of the Bruins getting Sean Couturier next entry draft and you'll be where the rest of us are.

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