November 22, 2011
The Leafs better not break up the top two lines
By Steve Buffery, QMI Agency
Not to sound like one of those guys who preaches the obvious, but there’s no way you break up the top two lines on the Maple Leafs, not even when injured centre Mikhail Grabovski comes back from injury.
Tyler Bozak, who scored two against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night and picked up an assist, is playing some of the best hockey of his career centring Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul on the first line (though coach Ron Wilson loathes putting numbers to lines). And Kessel and Lupul are obviously clicking (first and second in NHL scoring).
Bozak does have to keep working on the defensive side of his game though, as evidenced when Steven Stamkos danced around him in the third.
As for Tim Connolly, the former Buffalo standout is just too talented (when he’s healthy) to play anywhere but on one of the top two lines. Right now, he’s humming along nicely centring the second line, with six points in his past three games, including three Tuesday night against the Lightning.
The Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin-Clarke MacArthur unit was the best Leafs’ line last season, but they’ve been struggling together this season. Imagine the depth Grabovski would give the Leafs if he centred the team’s third line.
WASTE OF TALENT
I guess the key to beating that brutal 1-3-1 zone defence sometimes employed by the Tampa Bay Lightning is to take an early lead against them. With all that offensive talent — Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone — you would think that coach Guy Boucher would devise a much more up-tempo, offensive system, instead of putting the Tampa fans to sleep half the time. In 20 games this season, the Lightning have 55 goals, 12 less than goals scored against them.
And you would think that the Lightning’s top power play unit, which includes Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavalier and Malone, would be unstoppable. Stamkos has one power play goal, and Boucher is the second coming of Scotty Bowman how? Tampa is 19th in the NHL on the power play.
This Leafs squad has a lot of potential, but talk about inconsistent. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the NHL ... Rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner finished the game a plus-four ... Back-to-back good games by goalie Jonas Gustavsson. Perhaps he does have a future with the Leafs organization after all. On the Lecavalier goal in the first, though, he has to get across the crease faster ... Twitter going crazy with talk of new arena in Markham and possible NHL team. Is this one of them ‘If you build it, they will come,’ deals? ... The more you watch Connolly, the more you appreciate his talent ... The Leafs’ special teams are starting to click. Maybe the fans will get off Wilson’s back a little bit ... Jay Rosehill is not going to get too many shifts if he takes dumb penalties like holding the stick in the second ... Joe Colborne scored first NHL goal on a wonderful behind-the-back pass by Matt Frattin ... Dion Phaneuf wise for not getting sucked into a fight by Steve Downie late in the second, with the Leafs up 4-1 ... Crazy third period rush by Phaneuf four-on-four surely had Wilson reaching for the Tums ... Greg Millen, one of the best colour guys in hockey, is right. Tampa’s defence is awful.
Is there actually anything in those McCafe cups on the Hockey Central panel, or they just decorations? Nick Kypreos picked his up, but just looked at it ... Waiting for Kypreos and Doug MacLean to launch into that famous ‘Who’s on first?’ routine. You know it’s coming. Kypreos is definitely Bud Abbott to MacLean’s Lou Costello ... Thought Sportsnet might have hired Kris Kringle’s younger brother Kip Kringle for the Tampa game. Turns out it was Joe Bowen. ... Why is the father-in-law in the Pro Line commercial so miserable when his son-in-law wins? Great guy.