TORONTO - Leafs coach Ron Wilson couldn’t have asked for a better scenario than how Thursday night’s game went against the St. Louis Blues.
His two healthy goaltenders, Ben Scrivens and Jonas Gustavsson, are both are under the gun to come up with a solid game or two with regular starter James Reimer out with concussion-like symptoms.
The two goaltenders had given up a combined 13 goals on just 48 shots leading into Thursday’s game. Wilson elected to start Scrivens against the Blues and the Leafs started the game strong in the first period, firing 14 shots at Jaroslav Halak and jumping into a 2-0 lead while limiting the Blues’ chances, giving Scrivens a chance to settle in and gain some confidence. But after the first period, the Blues dominated and Scrivens had to bail the Leafs out time and again.
Scrivens stopped 37 of 39 shots against the Blues in regular time and the overtime, including a huge save on Alex Steen in the third, and was huge in the shootout, stopping all three Blues shooters. He gave up the tying goal to Patrik Berglund late but played a splendid game and you would have to believe that Scrivens will be Wilson’s main guy going forward until Reimer gets back.
Even when the Maple Leafs play the St. Louis Blues in early November, the airwaves and newspapers are full of Leafs news leading up to the game. For instance, everybody with a press pass, and many without, tweeted on Thursday afternoon that goaltender Gustavsson is “disappointed” that he wasn’t given the start last night — a stunning, shocking revelation ... Meanwhile, a Toronto “Breaking News” channel reported around 3 p.m. that the Leafs haven’t decided who was playing goal against the Blues — hours after some Toronto newspapers, the Sun included, and radio station reported that it would be Scrivens. Makes you wonder what their definition of “breaking news” is ... Leafs coach Wilson did a one-on-one with TSN’s James Duthie prior to the game. Earlier in the week, Wilson did one with Christine Simpson on Sportsnet. One can only assume that Saturday he’ll sit down with someone from the CBC. It’s almost like some MLSE flak set up these interviews so we could see Wilson’s “human side.” Me, I always suspected that Wilson was a regular human-type person. People don’t realize that Wilson is a funny, interesting dude and his disdain for the media can only be described as reasonable and understandable ... Nice idea having former NHLer and World War II veteran Howie Meeker read In Flanders Field to commemorate Remembrance Day ... A TSN insider reportedthat Reimer will start skating “soon.” What does “soon” mean exactly? In a couple of days? In a week? In a couple of weeks? The Leafs keep saying he’s getting better, so we can only assume he’ll start skating “soon.”
ANOTHER RANT ON ICE SIZE
Say what you want about Wilson, but his teams play an entertaining brand of hockey, particularly on the rush, as do teams coached by Ken Hitchcock. Made for a lively match Thursday night, unlike that disgrace between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, when the Lightning sat back with their 1-3-1 trap. You want to beat the trap? Widen the ice. It’s like these players, much bigger and faster than players of yesteryear, are playing in a phone booth. In the first period of the Leafs-Blues game, the puck must have hit an official 19 times. There’s not enough room for 10 big skaters and four zebras anymore. Maybe NHL people will wake up and smell the coffee some day.
HERE AND THERE
Mikhail Grabovski looks distracted or something ... These restaurant commercials where everyone has perfect teeth and smiles like hyenas are annoying ... Watching the TSN panel, Bob Clarke looks like he’d like to smack someone ... Speaking of the TSN panel, I was there when Tampa GM Phil Esposito took a poke at Bob McKenzie in the visitor’s dressing room at Maple Leaf Gardens some years back. Wild stuff. The Hoser was a lowly print scribe back then and not a TV big shot.