Kubina earning his keep

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Prior to this season, the most heated NHL rivalry Pavel Kubina probably ever tasted was those riveting Tampa Bay Lightning-Florida Panther slugfests.

Big deal.

Some of those Sunshine State tilts were such snoozefests, they likely would leave even the local alligators yawning.

But Kubina is a Maple Leaf now, making him part of the most storied matchup in league history.

And last night, the big Czech wrote his own chapter in the fabled Leafs-Habs matchup.

Recently criticized throughout town for being nothing more than the Leafs underachieving $20 million cash cow, Kubina gave the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre a glimpse of just how good -- and, at times, dominating -- he can be.

Collecting his first multi-point game since joining the Leafs, the defenceman registered two goals and added an assist in a 4-1 victory.

Signed to a whopping four-year, $20-million US contract during the summer, Kubina deserves to receive a bit of slack from the skeptics.

An early season knee injury, the birth of his first child and the transition from Tampa to hockey-mad Toronto is a lot to take in over the span of less than half a year.

Besides, what was he to do? Refuse the gobs of money Leafs general manager John Ferguson waved at him on July 1?

Just here to help

"I can't think about how people (feel about the contract)," Kubina said. "It would drive you crazy. "Nobody puts more pressure on me than I do. All I want to do is help this team make the playoffs because this city will go crazy. It will be amazing.

"I could have gone elsewhere for more money. But this is the best hockey town in the world and it's where I wanted to be."

Kubina's four goals as a Leaf have come in the past eight games. They have all been scored since he has been partnered with his friend and fellow Czech Tomas Kaberle.

"I've known Kabby for 13 or 14 years and have played alongside him for the Czech national team, so I feel very comfortable with him there," Kubina said.

Like Kubina, goaltender Andrew Raycroft has been a target of the fans' venom this season. And, like Kubina, the man nicknamed Razor shone last night.

In fact, the only goal he allowed was a shot by Habs forward Tomas Plekanec that bounced in off Kubina's body.

"The defence was excellent tonight," Raycroft said. "They cleared the lanes and let me see the shots come through."

Jeff O'Neill and Mats Sundin also scored for the Leafs, who now are 4-2 in their past six outings.

According to Kubina, the best lies ahead.

"I haven't even played my best game yet," he said.


Videos

Photos