November 23, 2011
Leafs' kiddie corps annoying rivals
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TAMPA - Crabby kids on a long trip annoying strangers with their antics is the nightmare of every parent.
But Ron Wilson hopes journeyman Joey Crabb and his two rookie linemates keep up this behaviour to the end of the Maple Leafs’ road swing on Sunday in Anaheim. Joe Colborne, Matt Frattin, together with fellow freshman Jake Gardiner on the blueline, tallied a five-point game in Tuesday’s 7-1 romp over the Lightning.
They are definitely not there yet, in terms of proving themselves through 82 games on a team with few development success stories of late. But this is the best-looking crop in awhile and the Elias Sports Bureau lists Tuesday as the first time three or more Toronto rookies had points in the same game since the last night of 2009-10. That’s when Christian Hanson, Viktor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak and Carl Gunnarsson combined for seven.
“Crabby likes to think he’s a young guy, too,” Colborne cracked of the 28-year-old. “We call ourselves the Kid Line anyway. Frattin’s such a good player and another AJ boy (Alberta Junior Hockey League) which is nice. Crabby and I have obviously developed some chemistry from early in the season (with the Toronto Marlies farm team) and I love playing with both those guys.”
In under 10 minutes of ice, Frattin made some great passes, one for Colborne’s first NHL goal, while the 6-foot-5 Denver grad had three hits. The Leafs are already the youngest team in the NHL at 26.4 years and Colborne and Frattin compose its youngest line.
“Colborne will be a pretty good player in this league,” coach Wilson predicted. “We’re starting to see he’s a little bit stronger in skating, he’s more ready than he was at camp. Frattin showed some real power moves today and got a little puck luck. He made a great play on the Colborne goal and then took it to the net on Crabb’s.”
For Colborne the best part might have been being plus-2 at the end of the night.
”I’m trying to earn some trust here with the coaching staff (with defensive play),” he said. “Hopefully that was a good step.”
Colborne was AHL player-of-the-month in October, crediting Marlie coach Dallas Eakins and skating coach Graeme Townshend with finding him an extra gear.
“Dallas was harping on me every single time to come out of the blocks as if you have a chance for a breakaway. So I do that every practice. I appreciate it’s starting to get noticed.”
Wilson didn’t forget about Gardiner’s glide factor. He collected two assists, including one on Clarke MacArthur’s stunning opening-minute goal. And just to show he’s not just a figure eight skater, he spent the end of the game in the box after a rough exchange with Steve Stamkos.
“Gardsie’s been playing so well and moving pucks, so it was good for him to get some points, too,” Wilson said.
No one is saying this group has NHL all-rookie team potential just yet. Only two weeks ago, Colborne was on the farm, Frattin had also been demoted after not scoring a regulation goal in his first 16 NHL games and a losing streak made Gardiner a candidate for a night’s rest in the rotation. Injuries changed that and all three are now assimilating. Colborne and Gardiner are living up to their first-round draft billing by Boston and Anaheim, after being acquired in deals for defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin, respectively.
Frattin was a mid-round John Ferguson Jr. draft pick in 2007 (Ferguson was in Tampa on Tuesday scouting for San Jose). In his two games with the Marlies, Frattin and Colborne hit it off, just as Colborne did with Crabb before the latter’s recall.
“(Colborne) and I are two big bodies with a low centre of gravity,” Frattin said. “We just try and work hard down low and create space for each other. We’re two guys with hockey sense and Crabby just adds to that.”
Colborne planned to ship his milestone puck back to his mom in Calgary,
“It was a sense of relief. I know Frats was having some problems getting his first and I didn’t want to do that. I hope it’s one of many and we can keep building on what we had going today, for (their line’s sake) and as a team.”
YOUNG GUNS PERFORMING
(Just the stats, folks)
D Jake Gardiner
Age: 21 GP 20
G-A-P = 0-7-7, minus 1
Av. ice time: 19:15
LW Matt Frattin
Age: 21 GP 19
G-A-P = 1-3-4, minus 3
Av. ice time: 12:35
C Joe Colborne
Age: 21 GP 3
G-A-P = 1-1-2, plus 2
Av. ice time: 10:52
G Ben Scrivens
Age: 25 GP 8
W-L-OT = 2-4-1, .904 spct