TORONTO - If Kris Versteeg could have scored in a real NHL game the way he did Sunday in the team’s just-for-laughs skills competition, he would be a YouTube sensation.
Coming in on one of the star 12-year-old minor hockey goalies who were part of the freestyle shootout, Versteeg flipped the puck to his blade, tapped it three times in mid-air then shifted his grip from the shaft to the bottom of the stick and batted the disc with the butt end, never breaking stride. The puck hopped crazily before bouncing right over the stunned youngster and into the net.
“Apparently, I can score when I do stuff like that,” joked Versteeg, who has been held to two goals in 16 games. “I need a 12-year-old in net, though.
“I figured I’d do that move right before I went out. They said to have fun with it. I planned the knuckle and everything. I never worked on it. I tried it the first chance (on another young goalie) and completely lost my stick.”
In another strange moment, a routine shot by Mike Komisarek clocked in at 139.4 m.p.h. or 30 m.p.h. faster than the NHL record. The big defenceman wasn’t sure if he was being put on or not, but an official went to the speed gun behind the net, gave it a shake and the next two Komisarek shots didn’t reach 98 m.p.h. Phil Kessel won it with a 99.5-m.p.h. blast.
Fredrik Sjostrom broke four targets in four shots during the accuracy competition. He just missed playing in Calgary with rookie T.J. Brodie, who as an 11-year-old was 4-for-4 at the 2002 Leafs skills competition. That was the year Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker needed five each to match Brodie.
Marlies mania rolls on
The AHL Marlies ended an eight-game road trip with 14 points, with a 4-3 win in Binghamton on Saturday. With Nazem Kadri now a Leaf, forward Justin Hodgman took the team scoring lead with 13 points in 12 games, adding a goal and assist on Saturday. Hodgman is also a plus six.
James Reimer and Finnish rookie Jussi Rynnas have been splitting duty in net.
Doing Canada proud
Ex-Leaf and road hockey enthusiast Paul Henderson, along with Don Cherry, sent some inspirational messages to the two Canadian teams participating in the world masters ball hockey championships in Slovakia this past week. The Canada 1 entry, including many over-40 players from Toronto’s Withrow Park Ball Hockey League, made it to Sunday’s gold medal final, losing 2-1 to the host nation.
With Derek Boogaard of the Rangers breaking his goalless streak of 234 games last week, the pressure turns to Nashville’s Wade Belak, whose drought goes back more than 100 games to a goal with the Leafs early in 2007-08 — coincidentally against Nashville. “At least I have one of the records,” Belak quipped ... Kessel will be signing items at Frozen Pond collectibles in Concord this Sunday, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a share of profits going towards Cardiac Kids in support of Sick Kids Hospital Foundation.