January 4, 2011
Leafs' Grabovski line holds true
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - As bad as the Leafs’ record is so far, their problems would be worse if the line of Mikhail Grabovski between Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur weren’t holding three of the top five positions in team scoring. Grabovski had the lone goal in Toronto’s 2-1 loss to Boston on Monday and has 12 points in his past 12 games.
“They work hard, they’re consistent, they have a little bit of chemistry,” coach Ron Wilson said of the line. “I think Grabovski is really pushing the line right now with his speed. The other guys read off him. They didn’t have their best game (Monday), but they’re always at the top of the list for scoring chances when you add it up. (In the Boston game) maybe it was 15 or 16 and they’ll have been on the ice for five or six or them.”
But Wilson thought Tyler Bozak missed a great chance to tie the game on a Phil Kessel rush. Wilson chided Bozak, who had three goals the past two games, for a “fly-by” on the rebound.
“He should have probably gone straight through the goalie and he kind of whacked it as he went by,” Wilson noted. “If he had thrown on the brakes and stopped in front of the net, he probably would have put it away. But we had our chances. It was a great effort.”
Bozak won a draw with under three seconds to play, but the six attacking Leafs couldn’t get the puck through.
NEXT: NO. 3,000
The Leafs’ match on Thursday at the Air Canada Centre against the St. Louis Blues will be something of a milestone, the 3,000th home game in team history.
Toronto’s home record thus far is 1,580 wins, 988 losses, 393 ties and 38 overtime losses. The first home game — and win — for the franchise came on Dec. 22, 1917, with the Toronto Arenas’ 11-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The club’s 3,000th road match is scheduled for Jan. 19 against the New York Rangers.
SAD TIMES FOR ALUMNI
This has been a solemn season for the Maple Leafs alumni with a number of players and coaches passing on in recent months. There have been nine members honoured at recent games, in one or two cases because they were recluses whose deaths were only recently reported.
The list includes Murray Armstrong, Eddie Litzenberger, Don Simmons, Aut Erickson, Vic Lynn, Gaye Stewart, Pete Langelle, Bob Hassard and coach Pat Burns.
Clearly, Leafs players are impressed at goalie James Reimer’s poise through seven periods. “He’s been very good,” captain Dion Phaneuf said of both Reimer’s 31-save effort on Monday and his win on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. “He gave us a chance to win. He was very steady, very solid, as have all the guys who have come up from the Marlies (Reimer, Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb).” ... One press box wag wondered if Reimer would change the artwork on his mask on Monday night from Don Cherry and Ron MacLean to Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos to get the same close-up from Sportsnet’s cameras as he did Saturday on Hockey Night In Canada ... No need to remind Wilson the Leafs have lost three one-goal home games since Christmas. “You’re this close (to winning or forcing overtime),” Wilson said. “The last two games, we went into the third period tied and (against Boston), we had a bad four or five minutes in the second and it cost us.”
— Lance Hornby