March 14, 2010
Leafs kids crush OilersBozak, Kessel, Kulemin too hot to handle
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
The horn had barely sounded on the Maple Leafs 6-4 victory over Pat Quinn’s Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night and already the Toronto dressing room was stuffed with celebrities.
In the far corner stood a smiling Heather Moyse who, along with partner Kaillie Humphries, won gold in Olympic bobsledding at the recently completed Vancouver Winter Games.
Chatting with a number of the Leafs players were Olympic ice dancing champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, both self-proclaimed huge hockey fans.
And last, but certainly not least, was Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, star of such films as Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
We’re not sure if Tyler Bozak knows who Richard Dreyfuss is. We do know that Dreyfuss won his Academy Award as best actor for his role in The Goodbye Girl in 1977, some nine years before Bozak was even born.
On this night, with apologies to the celebrities of the Winter Games and the silver screen, Tyler Bozak was the star of the show.
It wasn’t just the one goal and two assists that were found beside his name on the scoresheet.
It was the style with which he compiled them.
A prime example was the opening goal, scored by linemate Nikolai Kulemin. Bozak cleanly won a faceoff to the young winger, who blasted the puck past embattled Oilers goalie Jeff Deslauriers at 13:34 of the first period.
Bozak, who won 68% of the draws on this night, should be good on faceoffs after all the practising he did growing up.
As a boy in Regina, the Bozaks had a small backyard rink. On many days, Tyler’s father Mitch, who at one time played for the University of Saskatchewan at Regina, would bring out a bucket of pucks and work on faceoffs with his son for hours.
“I wanted to fool around and play games but he wanted to work on faceoffs,” Tyler said.
Good thing it played out that way.
Bozak’s goal, which gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead, was an example of raw skill. Picking up the puck in the neutral zone, he pulled away from three defenders before practically deking Deslauriers out of his jock strap.
Moves like that can’t be taught. It’s natural talent, pure and simple. And it’s what has the Leafs brass quietly excited about the University of Denver alumnus.
Yes, Bozak needs to put on some beef over the summer. He looks like a stringbean when he peels off his equipment. But, given what he has been through this season, that hardly seems like a big deal.
After turning in several outstanding performances during the pre-season, Bozak admits he was disappointed at being sent down to the Marlies. There, things spiralled downward with a bout of swine flu and a subsequent ankle injury leaving him quite frustrated.
“At the time, going to the Marlies was (upsetting),” Bozak said. “But it helped me in the long run learn about things like the increased pro schedule, the proper diet, things like that.”
Fortunately, he stayed the course. And now, several months later, he finds himself centring the Leafs’ No. 1 line between Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin.
“It has been a roller-coaster season, what with the (swine flu) and everything,” Bozak said. “But it’s going good now.”
The Kessel-Bozak-Kulemin unit had a big night, combining for eight points. That performance had a number of press box wags searching for a nickname for the young trio.
The best suggestion? “Kule and the Gang.”
Hey, we never said the name would stick.
On the other hand, it certainly appears Tyler Bozak will.