Tim Connolly might take some time to get going for the Maple Leafs now that he has recovered from a cracked bone in his shoulder, but he was not completely rusty in his Toronto debut on Thursday night.
Connolly didn’t have a point in his first game for the Leafs, but made a few smart plays with linemates Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul in a 4-2 Leafs victory in New York versus the Rangers.
Never mind that Connolly is a step behind because he has not played since last season. Connolly will take more than a few games to catch up to Kessel and Lupul, who have been the Leafs’ best forwards as the club has compiled a 6-2-1 record through nine games.
What’s perhaps more encouraging coming out of the win at Madison Square Garden is the Leafs had balanced scoring. A member of every line scored a goal, and that’s something that will have to occur fairly regularly for the Leafs to be a serious threat to any opponent.
That’s crucial as the schedule gets no easier in the next week or so. The visiting Pittsburgh Penguins will be tough on Saturday night, Sidney Crosby or not, and then it’s three more games on the road.
That Connolly finally is in the lineup is a positive development. The Leafs just have to ensure they’re not relying just on him, or on any other single player, on any given night.
Jonas Gustavsson was weak on the Rangers’ first goal, but part of the reason the goal was scored was the speed of Marian Gaborik, who didn’t have a hard time getting past a back-pedalling Matthew Lombardi ... Henrik Lundqvist was as bad on Lombardi’s score. The usually reliable Rangers netminder was out of position when Lombardi fired a shot past him on the short side ... Mike Komisarek, often criticized by Leafs faithful, began the play on the winning goal by Clarke MacArthur when he forced Artem Anisimov into a turnover at the Toronto blue line ... We always thought Kris Newbury was a tough player for his size (5-foot-11, 213 pounds) when he played for the Leafs and the Brampton native showed why in a fight with Mike Brown. Despite getting repeatedly tagged by Brown’s right fist, Newbury popped back up to keep the fight going before finally relenting. When Brown later bungled a 4-on-2 Leafs rush, the true value of his hands might have been underscored, but then he fired a shot past Lundqvist in the third period for first goal ... Mikhail Grabovski and MacArthur hustled to break up a Rangers 2-on-1 after captain Dion Phaneuf got caught pinching ... Kessel had speed to burn on two breakaways in the second period, but both times Lundqvist was there to make a save with his right pad ... One of these days, defenceman John-Michael Liles might bowl us over with his play in a Leafs sweater. That hasn’t occurred yet ... If Nazem Kadri is going to emulate anyone in his time with the Toronto Marlies, it should be another Leafs prospect, Joe Colborne. The latter often is one of the last Marlies off the ice at practice, and if there was any discouragement on the part of Colborne when he was sent down, the big centre has masked it well. If Colborne keeps his scoring pace up, he could be recalled before Kadri ... Millions and millions of dollars spent on refurbishing Madison Square Garden and still the ice is bad. Sometimes the seemingly easiest things to fix are the hardest ... As home debuts go, the Rangers’ Brad Richards couldn’t have been more underwhelming.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Not every head coach believes in an open-door policy, but the Marlies’ Dallas Eakins is the opposite. When Ben Scrivens, now with the Leafs as James Reimer recovers from what may or may not be a concussion, was struggling prior to a shutout against Abbotsford on Wednesday night, he sought out Eakins to talk about it. “He popped into my office the other day and wanted to talk about his play, just felt like he was not playing as well as he did last year,” Eakins said. “Ben has very high expectations of himself, which is excellent for our organization.” ... Teams are calling the Leafs regarding the availability of Cody Franson in a trade but management is holding firm and has no interest in dealing the 24-year-old defenceman. This is an interesting line for the Leafs to walk. Their defence depth naturally means that other teams will be on the phone, but because of injuries that are bound to occur, pulling the trigger on a trade wouldn’t be wise. The Leafs’ winning record so far also makes it easier to say no to potential trade partners ... Wojtek Wolski had a superb final season of major junior with the Brampton Battalion in 2005-06 but he never has been able to take his game to another level in the NHL. The Rangers are his third NHL club, and it’s going to be interesting to see how long Wolski, whose effort does not always match his talent, lasts under coach John Tortorella ... That the Leafs did not score in the first period was not a big shock. In four games against the Rangers last season, the Leafs were outscored 8-0 in the opening 20 minutes.