December 15, 2010
Grabovski shows his skill and quickness
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - You get the impression that wherever he goes in his NHL career, Mikhail Grabovski will spend too much time driving his coaches crazy.
The slick Leafs centre has always looked like he had the potential to be an elite NHL scorer thanks to his speed, shot and playmaking ability. On the other hand, his production can go missing for vast periods of futility.
A nice finish to a Clarke MacArthur feed on Tuesday gave Grabovski nine goals in 30 games and four in his past five. And if he can just add some consistency, the Belarusian should easily top his career-best of 20 goals in a season.
Grabovski’s skill and quickness were at their best in the 4-1 win over the wreckless Oilers, a perfect fit to the wide-open game the Leafs needed to shake out of their road woes.
And the line of Grabovski, MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin lately has been the Leafs most dangerous, relative as that may be.
As much as his first goal of the season was a big one for the captain and his team, it wasn’t a banner first period for Dion Phaneuf. Minutes after opening the scoring, he let Taylor Hall get by him for a breakaway and on Jordan Eberle’s goal, twice the Leafs defenceman let the Oilers rookie get by unchecked ... Interesting to see Phaneuf let the Hall, get the better of him midway through the third. After Hall chirped at him during a stoppage, Phaneuf replied with a face wash and got a minor penalty at the wrong time ... Perhaps feeding off the young Oilers and the fast ice, the Leafs puck movement was slicker than it had been in weeks ... You can argue that this was Leafs goalie J-S Giguere’s best game of the season if for no other reason than his work on stopping Hall. Might have been the new goalie pads he was debuting.
That was a huge block by Phaneuf in the first 30 seconds of the third to keep the Leafs’ two-goal lead. And the goal will be quite the boost for part two of the tour of Alberta on Thursday ... Big screen by Colby Armstrong on the Phaneuf goal ... Among the many qualities that make Colton Orr a serious NHL heavyweight is his incredible balance. His lengthy bout (and win) over Zack Stortini on Tuesday night was both a classic and one that served a purpose. Orr was clearly getting Stortini back for a knee on Grabovski earlier in the game. Orr is respected by opponents and teammates alike, the reason he can often be seen after Leafs practice dispensing advice ... Phil Kessel the backchecker? That was hustle by the sometimes lazy winger to thwart a couple of Oilers chances in the second. Kessel still doesn’t go to the net nearly as often as he needs to (glaring when you watch Hall play) but the notoriously streaky player counted his 12th of the season on Tuesday to start a mini two-game scoring streak and had six shots on net against the Oilers ... Frightening (and dangerous) how many good scoring opportunities Hall is able to get. Hall had a game-high eight shots, two of them on breakaways.
Think there has been much turnover in the Leafs roster? As the Sportsnet crew reported, last year when the Leafs visited Alberta there was a request for four tickets. On Tuesday, players put in for 80. With eight players from Western Canada, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if there were more ... Leafs took control with a big second-period in which they outshot the Oilers 13-3 ... As a frequent participant in the Battle of Alberta, Phaneuf has scored more against the Oilers (9) than any other team. Phaneuf clearly remembered those days with some chatter at the Oilers bench as he cruised by following the goal ... One reason for the strong start Tuesday was in the faceoff circle, an area of concern lately. Tyler Bozak set the tone by winning his first six draws ... You have to wonder when Nazem Kadri will finally break through with his first NHL goal, but he is getting his chances, including three good ones Tuesday ... In 17 previous road games, the Leafs had just 23 goals ... Brett Lebda’s assist on Grabovski’s goal was his first point as a Leaf ... Sportsnet’s Bill Watters on Grabovski: “He can’t check his hat.” ... That was the Leafs’ first win in Edmonton since 2007 and snapped a four-game losing streak in Western Canada.