According to the official game sheet from Saturday night’s Maple Leafs-Red Wings tilt, Nazem Kadri was out for a pleasure skate.
Kadri recorded one shot, one hit, and was even in the plus-minus department, as the Leafs downed the Wings, 4-3. But game sheets, obviously, can be deceiving. Kadri deserved at least a couple of assists on the night, and could have had, easily, three or four.
Twice in the first period the young forward set up linemate Matthew Lombardi in front of Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard. He also sent defenceman Luke Schenn in on Howard with a great pass. In the second, he found David Steckel, who was breaking in on Howard. In the third, he set up Lombardi a third time. But on every occasion, the recipient of his seeing-eye pass failed to convert.
Since being picked seventh overall in the 2009 draft, Kadri has been shuttled back and forth from the Marlies. It was obvious he had the offensive skills, but the defensive side of his game was lacking. Most recently, he was recalled from the Marlies on Dec. 21, and it appears as though he won’t be going back down to the dumpy Ricoh Coliseum anytime soon. In this latest go-round with the Leafs, Kadri has continued to dazzle offensively, while dramatically cutting back the turnovers and giveaways. The London native has a knack of finding the open man and though he is not big by any measure, he plays with an edge. More and more it looks like the Leafs have a real find on their hands.
“I think Kaz is maturing as a young player,” said Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek. “Everyone knows how talented he is. I think he’s maturing in the sense that he’s working just as hard defensively and trying to retrieve the puck and trying to separate the puck. And when he does have the puck and there’s four guys in front of him and our guys are behind him, he’s getting the puck deep and forechecking instead of trying to beat guys one on one.
“He’s playing with confidence. He’s worked hard on his game down on the AHL and the improvement is showing,” Komisarek added.
IT’S A TWO-WAY GAME
There’s no denying that the Phil Kessel-Joffrey Lupul unit has been playing out of their minds offensively. Against the Wings, both wingers had a goal and assist. But at least once a game, Kessel, Lupul, and whomever is playing centre, get caught running around in their own end before running out of gas. It’s a sure-fire recipe for failure. That happened twice in the second period and twice in the third against the Wings on Saturday night and on Detroit’s third goal early in the third, the line, and centre Tim Connolly in particular, just stood around as Jiri Hudler hammered home a rebound to tie the game. That line is there for offence, but if they don’t starting paying a little more attention to detail in their own end, the Leafs aren’t going anywhere.
Kessel now has 24 goals. Does this mean the ‘50-goal talk’ is going to heat up soon? Apparently so. One Toronto sports writer tweeted something about that on Saturday. Heaven help us all ... Kessel and Lupul lead the NHL with 33 games with at least one point. Kessel has points in eight straight games ... Saturday’s win by the Leafs moved Toronto one game ahead of Detroit in their all-time matchups. Leading into the game, the two Original Six teams had played each other 643 times, and had each posted 275 wins (with 93 ties) ... On Tuesday, the Leafs were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and, Thursday, Toronto was 1-for-1 in a 4-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets and were 1-for-1 on the kill against the Wings. The PK is obviously, finally, coming around ... Dion Phaneuf has nine points in the past eight games ... Lupul has seven points in the past three games ... An octopus was thrown on the ice after Todd Bertuzzi scored in the second period for the Red Wings. No Waffle Man to respond.
Phaneuf raised a few eyebrows during the pre-game warmup. Despite having a swollen jaw as a result of taking a puck in the face in Thursday’s game, he warmed up without a helmet or faceshield ... A group of Blue Jays took in the game, Ricky Romero, J.P Arencibia, Casey Janssen and Brett Lawrie.