Leafs can't win for trying

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

Toronto-area kid Luca Caputi found himself so close to Tim Thomas, he could probably smell the goalie’s breath.

It was the first period of Thursday’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Bruins, the first post-trade deadline tilt for both teams, and Caputi, making his Buds debut after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday, was looking to leave his mark.

This was his chance to shine. This was his chance to make this a memorable night.

All he had to do is shoot the puck.

Instead he passed.

So much for that scoring chance.

Welcome to the stretch run of the 2009-10 Maple Leafs, one in which Toronto’s inexperience stands to be front and centre.

At the same time, what the Leafs also put on display was effort against the Bruins, a trait that has been missing on too many occasions the past few years.

While losing 3-2 on a Miro Satan shootout goal, the fact remains the Leafs overcame a pair of one-goal deficits to extend the game to overtime.

Indeed, what Caputi and his mates might lack in NHL games-played on their respective resumes, there are signs here that they will make up for it by refusing to give up.

And for coach Ron Wilson and his coaching staff, that is a huge deal.

Sure enough, Caputi’s doggedness would pay off. Grinding away in the corner, the Maple native would garner his first point as a Leaf in the third period, assisting on a Tyler Bozak goal that tied the game 2-2.

The change of culture with this team is obvious, both on the ice and off.

With so many kids on the roster, the team leaders are all players who are in their first seasons with the Leafs.

There is Francois Beauchemin, who won a Stanley Cup for GM Brian Burke’s Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

There is J-S Giguere, a teammate of Beauchemin on that championship Anaheim team three years ago.

And there is Dion Phaneuf, who has become a role model for the Leafs just six weeks after being run out of Calgary, where he was considered by some to be moody and selfish.

On Wednesday night, before Caputi had even had the chance to meet his new teammates, the kid was sitting down doing an interview at the Leafs swank Boston hotel when he was approached by Phaneuf, who immediately invited him along for a team dinner. Within a couple of minutes, Giguere and Beauchemin had done the same.

It indeed is the passing of the torch.

Believe it or not, this franchise is less than two years removed from the days when Mats Sundin was the unquestioned leader. Of course, his supporting cast at the time was no where as near as green as this 2010 group.

Yes. this thing will take time to gel.

The Bruins opened the scoring at 9:36 of the first on a Miro Satan snap shot that beat Giguere through the legs. Six minutes later, Viktor Stalberg tied the game 1-1, ripping a short-side shot past Thomas.

Johnny Boychuk put the Bruins up 2-1 at 15:24 of the second on another shot that found its way through Giguere’s five hole. Surely that will be something goalie advisor Francois Allaire will be addressing.

Once again the Leafs came back, this time courtesy of Bozak early in the third.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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