BY: Jeff Schneberk
It was one of those nights that makes you proud to be a @mapleleafs fan, @flamesNHL fan, @notredamefootball supporter, and a fan of some exciting MLB #WorldSeries baseball.
All of those elements came to be last night.
For the Leafs in us, the weekend started off on Friday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio where David Clarkson made his very-highly anticipated return to the Maple Leafs; it would be his first season game wearing blue and white, having been acquired in the summer time back when the free agent frenzy started, then he got smacked with a suspension halfway through the pre-season after showing a bit of ‘life’ after teammate Phil Kessel got attacked by Conan the Barbarian aka Buffalo Sabre John Scott.
Anyways, Clarkson returned to the lineup Friday night and was one of the few Leafs to show any life. He hit guys, he forechecked, created some scoring opportunities; with a few exceptions, most of the rest of them were flat as pancakes and thus were handed a 5-2 loss by the Blue Jackets, who are currently dead centre in the middle of the Metropolitan Division, tied with Washington for 10 points.
Leafs obviously did not win any points vs Columbus, but like they have been doing for upwards of 20 some odd years now, they get schooled by the weaker teams (the Stars, the Jets, Preds and the list goes on), THEN they turn around the very next day, and kick the shit out of the best of the NHL (Penguins, Bruins, Ducks and the list will go on there too).
How else can anyone explain the tendencies of these Leafs? Sure they are not the only team in pro sports that gets taken to school by a weaker team, then overpowers the superpowers the very next night. How frustrating is it to watch the first game, the have them turn the tables completely on the much better team? Everyone following the Columbus game blamed the refs.
Nobody seemed to care about them last night. As a result, Leafs take an 8-4 record into the week and for the next day or so, will have sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.
They head out on a western road swing starting on Tuesday night in Edmonton, then play in Calgary the next night and head to Vancouver on the first Saturday in November.
Joffrey Lupul is making the trip but may or may not play, Tyler Bozak is out for at least a week, but it was nice to see Frazer McLaren get back into it last night with a fight against Craig England.
Lupul’s absence on the Leafs top line meant there was an opening for Nazem Kadri, and boy oh boy, did he ever NOT disappoint. Kadri put the Leafs up for good last night, connecting with James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel for easily the sweetest goal of the night which made it 2-1; a lead they would not give up.
Against Pittsburgh, playing at the Air Canada Centre, Kris Letang opened the scoring at 6:52 of the first period and made it look like it was to be another long night in Leaf land.
However Dave Bolland blasted a slap shot from the top of the slot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury stick side. It was a shorthanded effort and woke up everyone at the ACC as well as a bunch of us watching from home too lol.
Then Kadri did what he is becoming known to do and that is score beautiful and timely goals. He had at least one hat trick last year during the shortened season; nobody will be at all surprised if he does it a couple more times this season. Last night’s goal was his 4th in 12 games.
Kadri’s goal came at the perfect time too, only 1:26 into the third frame in a tie game.
He seemed to take more pride in knowing that mentally, this team is there. That should result in many more wins when you know that the players on the team are all on the same page, mentally.
“We’re all on the same page offensively. It was great,” Kadri said after the game. “It’s not just the offensive side of things, we took care of the D-zone. We were able to shut down a few of their key players.”
The Bolland line last night (along with Clarkson and Mason Raymond) shut down Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. Evgeni Malkin finished with a -3 rating and Crosby was a minus 2.
The Maple Leafs are now done at home for October and finish October with a record of 5-2 on home ice.
They had wins this month on the road in Nashville, Philadelphia and Montreal.