TORONTO - Phil Kessel needs creative players alongside him, and if the last two games are any indication, rookie Nazem Kadri seems to be the perfect fit.
No one is going to dust off the Calder Trophy any time soon, but Kadri has been splendid the last two games, especially on Thursday night in a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils when he consistently found Kessel, the Leafs’ one and only true sniper, with some nifty passes, including a cross-ice feed for Kessel’s ninth of the season in the second period, which gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead.
“He’s pretty easy to find,” Kadri said of Kessel. “He gets into those soft spots, those areas that goal scorers get into.”
There aren’t a lot of Leafs who can see the ice like Kadri can, so if he continues to look after his own end of the ice and not give the puck away too much, like he did in the pre-season, or let the opposition dance around him, like Dainius Zubrus did in the third period on Thursday, he should be okay.
“He still has some nasty habits,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of Kadri’s defensive lapses. “Over time, we‚ll have to eradicate those.”
Kadri, who scored 35 goals last season for the London Knights, is still waiting for his first NHL goal.
“Obviously I‚d like to get my first goal sometime soon,” he said.
zzzzz Devils are in town
The New Jersey Devils.
NHL hockey at its worst.
What’s the point of paying huge money for a superstar like Ilya Kovalchuk if you don’t play a creative brand of hockey?
The Devils trailed for most of Thursday night’s game, so they opened up a bit, particularly in the third. Still, they are still a trap team and generally boring to watch. It’s no wonder they don’t get many fans at home, even though they’ve largely been a winning franchise for years. If it wasn’t for the fact that they had an all-star goaler in Martin Brodeur all those seasons, they’d be off the radar.
News of the Devils’ boring ways seem to have reached this neck of the woods. Though the Air Canada Centre is always sold out for Leafs’ games, there were plenty of no-shows on Thursday night and reports outside on Bay St. were that, after the game had started, the scalpers were desperately trying to get rid of tickets.
For whatever reason, the fans at the Air Canada Centre booed Kovalchuk. Not sure what Kovalchuk ever did to the Toronto franchise, other than score a lot of goals.
Karloff would be proud
Leafs backup goaler Jonas Gustavsson played well Thursday night, starting because J-S Giguere is out with a groin strain. Wilson plans to start The Monster in every game while Giguere is out and he certainly got off to a good start Thursday night in proving that he can be an everyday starting goaltender. Gustavsson stood on his head late in the game (not literally) ... Brodeur, who had been playing well for the Devils, did not start the third and was replaced by Johan Hedberg ... Centre Mikhail Grabovski also had another good game, scoring the Leafs’ first goal, but equally as important, drew a penalty by defenceman Matthew Corrente late in the third with some good work behind the Devils net. At that point in the game, the Devils were pressing hard. Kris Versteeg scored on that power play, his third extra-man goal in the last two games ... Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was a guest in the broadcast booth with Greg Millen and Joe Bowen in the second period ... Fredrik Sjostrom hit the goal post with Hedberg pulled for the extra attacker in the dying minutes.