|Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr lands a punch on Rangers forward Jody Shelley at Madison Square Garden in New York on April 7, 2010. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/Reuters file photo)
TORONTO - When Colton Orr and Mike Brown get their arms up, it usually means a fight card is about to ensue for the Maple Leafs.
But on Thursday, both wingers were raising their mitts to celebrate a goal by Tim Brent.
In fact, the entire 60 minutes against the arch-enemy Montreal Canadiens somehow passed without Toronto needing its truculence/belligerence business cards that general manager Brian Burke insisted his team carry at all times.
Hometown fans saw the Leafs take just three penalties, one of them for the terror of too many men.
The Leafs were also out-hit 34-27, yet no one in the stands was complaining about their three nice goals and two huge points at the end of the evening.
“We’re not all about being mean and physical and truculent,” defenceman Mike Komisarek said. “People talk about that, but we have a lot of talented, exciting, speedy forwards that go under the radar here.”
Coach Ron Wilson had vowed that new, multi-tasking, first-line left winger Kris Versteeg could look forward to a very expanded role in Toronto than he had with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
Wilson joked he should be shot if Versteeg didn’t have 20 minutes of ice to his credit every night, but the coach gave himself some extra kevlar by putting Versteeg out almost 23 minutes to be sure.
Versteeg didn’t get a point, but was in the neighbourhood when linemates Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel hooked up for a breakaway goal by the latter that staked the Leafs to a 2-0 lead. Earlier, Brown and Orr were doing their plumbing chores when Brent tipped a Dion Phaneuf point shot past Carey Price.
“It works both ways,” said Orr, who rang up 239 penalty minutes last year, but went no further than some verbal jabs against the Habs.
“You need to have a good mix of guys, the skill guys and the checkers and tough forwards who will allow them to play comfortably.”
Brown, who had six goals with Anaheim last season, also sees no point in trying to create mayhem out of a mild game.
“It’s not always about the fighting, it’s about the presence and the willingness (to fight),” he said. “We want to play a physical game. We have a lot of defencemen who can take the body and a lot of forwards who can forecheck. If something happens, we have guys who can drop the gloves.
“But we have a lot of quick guys. I love watching Kessel and Bozak because they have some wheels and they’re playing well together already. There’s lots to grow on.”
The darker side of the Leafs will likely be called upon Saturday night when the Ottawa Senators are here. There have been some dandy scraps through the years involving players such as Ottawa’s Chris Neil and more recently, Orr and Sens’ Matt Carkner.
“There’s no better way to start the season than playing Montreal and no better way to follow it up and hopefully get a win than to play Ottawa,” defenceman Luke Schenn said.
“There’s a big similarity. You will have fans from both sides coming out and wearing their sweaters. It’s a good atmosphere and a good build-up. It will be a very good game just because of that. It’s early, but when you play your divisional opponents six times a year, you want to make sure you get the points when you can.”
It’s a mentality that Toronto coach Ron Wilson also wants to see in those mid-season yawners when this team is on the road in half-empty buildings on Long Island and in Atlanta.
“I want to think our heads will be in the game for every team we’ll play,” Wilson said.
“You don’t try harder because you’re playing Montreal or Ottawa.
“Certainly there’s more excitement, more of a buzz in the building and that can help you. But it doesn’t matter who we play, we have to get the points and if we can do it against division opponents, it’s even better.”