Lock up your daughters, National Hockey League, because the real Toronto Maple Leafs are finally here and ready to get them all pregnant.
The Leafs, losers of something like 1,782 in a row (only one went down as an overtime loss), skulked their way into the Honda Center to play the Ducks and everyone on the planet was all like, “Oh the Ducks, jeez, they made the playoffs last year and Ryan Getzlaf and Scott Niedermayer oh no poor Leafs.” Like Brian Burke’s was gonna listen to that garbage. Please.
They may have skulked in, but they rampaged out, cruising to a 6-3 W that they made look as easy as the previous few hundred had for their opponents.
Those cynical wags among us might scoff. “But,” they say, “one win doesn’t prove anything.” Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it prove that Toronto’s ghastly peripheral stats (a 5.9 shooting percentage coming into tonight, for example) are quickly normalizing themselves? Doesn’t it prove that a club that improved its offense and defense this offseason will actually start functioning as a team? Look at that power play tonight! Five goals! These guys really aren’t as bad as all you morons think they are.
The Canadiens are a team that experts said would take 10-20 games to truly come together as they hoped. And now Montreal is .500 through 10 games, and not even an especially impressive .500. Four of their five wins were in overtime or a shootout. They’re sub-average at everything. But hey, they “turned a corner” because they snuck past the Rangers on Saturday, so the media backed off. The Rangers, for the record, suck, though that’s apparently neither here nor there.
How about this: Toronto was a decent, if incredibly unlucky team through its first eight games and heck, things simply had to get better. Tomas Kaberle had five points tonight, and it wasn’t because he backed into them. He’s a good hockey player. Nik Hagman had a hattie tonight. Not because he just hung around the net and cherry-picked, but because he’s a pretty effective goalscorer. Jonas Gustavsson had a solid night too, making 25 saves. Probably because he’s a good, and promising, goalie. Plus Phil Kessel is real close to returning.
Count the Leafs out all you want, they’re just going to beat the hell out of you for the rest of the season. Or maybe I’m just saying all this because I picked them to make the playoffs.
New York Rangers 5, Phoenix 2
The bad news is that Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t bring it tonight. He gave up four goals on the 11 shots he faced in 27:46 of work before getting the hook. The good news is that Marian Gaborik’s groin is going to explode out of his body like in Alien any day now.
Montreal 3, New York Islanders 2 (OT)
Another big W for Les Habitants. That makes a full third of their wins against the Islanders. Congrats guys, that’s huge news.
Chicago 3, Minnesota 1
Cristobal Huet got this on lock. A massively important 20 saves on 21 shots. That’s for-real goaltending right there. You can’t just teach that.