October 10, 2008


Well, well, well. What a way to start the season. The Maple Leafs went into the abyss known as Detroit on the night the Red Wings raised another Stanley Cup banner to the rafters, and emerged victorious.

Now that, my friends, is what I call crashing the party. A hard fought and well deserved 3-2 victory. I couldn't be happier.

As much as I hate to say that I called it, well, umm, I called it. Seriously. Here's an email I sent to the boys yesterday afternoon at 2:48 p.m.:

"Toskala will steal the show tonight. 3-2 Leafs."

Well, whatta ya know, eh? My girlfriend, clearly impressed by my prophetic skills, asked me how I knew the Leafs were going to win. I was honest: blind faith and unbridled optimism. I'm no genius; I'm a homer.

Vesa Toskala did indeed steal the show. He was the best player on the ice, from either team. He was splendid, stopping 35 of 37 shots, including a couple of tough ones late in the game. Unlike last season, there's no question who's the man between the pipes for the Leafs, and Vesa played with a purpose. He knows how important he is to this team. God bless him.

If you missed Nikolai Kulemin's game-winning goal, don't worry. I got you:

My man Jim Hughson said it best: "Nikolai Kulemin's first National Hockey League goal is a beauty." With some serious emphasis on "beauty." I went pretty ape shit over that one. I know you did too. Filthy goal, and it showcased the immense talent Kulemin possesses.

Here are some other deep thoughts from last night's tilt:
  • I was talking shit about Dominic Moore right before he scored the Leafs' second goal. Chemmy, that one was for you. And who was on the ice taking a huge defensive zone faceoff on the penalty kill in the dying seconds of the game? Dominic fuckin' Moore. He played more than Antropov and finished with a goal, five shots on net, and a +2 rating. He's huge.
  • I like the #77 on Kubina's back. Pavel doesn't exactly elicit memories of Paul Coffey when he's skating up ice, but the digits suit him, still.
  • I'm a fan of Jonas Frogren's facial hair. Frogger played an aggressive, physical game which I enjoyed. He really does remind me of Danny Markov.
  • Matt Stajan played 9:19. I love you, Ron Wilson. 
  • Niklas Hagman is fast. Very fast. One thing's for sure, this team can skate. Finally, three years after the lockout, the Leafs get it.
  • Mikhail Grabovski's a playmaker, pure and simple. Grabs didn't stand out last night, but he had his moments. Kid can dangle.
  • Mike Van Ryn looked good back on the blue line, and he's got decent wheels.
  • Tomas Holmstrom is a beast in front of the net. There is a lot of junk in that trunk.
  • Luke Schenn looked every bit like an NHL defenceman. He played 17:20, and I enjoyed seeing him paired with my heart throb Tomas Kaberle.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, in their barn. That's hype. It looks like even Damien Cox enjoyed it. Sure, he took a petty below the belt shot at Darcy Tucker, but he still enjoyed it.
  • Alexei Ponikarovsky hit his first post of the season. There are plenty more where that came from. Hey, 40, is the Poni Express ridin' this season? Holla atcha boy.
I don't know about you, but I was full of nerves last night. It seemed like there was a lot more on the line than just two points in the season opener. With about ten minutes left to play in the third period, with the Leafs holding on to a 3-2 advantage, I sat quietly, hands folded together in front of my mouth. I was waiting for Detroit to score, and for the lead to evaporate. I was waiting for the inevitable.

But it didn't happen. Like the night ten years ago when the Leafs beat Detroit and began a new chapter in their history, I felt we turned to a new page, and to a new chapter, last night. The John Ferguson Jr. era is mercifully behind us. The Paul Maurice era is done and gone. The post-Mats Sundin era has officially begun. It's on to bigger and better things, my friends.

The Leafs held on for the win last night, and I felt vindicated. Not for me, as a fan, but for the players. I wanted nothing more than a Toronto win yesterday not so that the fans would start believing in this team, but so that this edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs would start believing in themselves.

*UPDATE* I forgot to say: PLAYOFFS!


Chemmy said...

Expanding on your post from yesterday; in 1998 Kaberle made his debut and the Leafs beat the defending cup champion Red Wings by a single goal.

That same year, after missing the playoffs for two straight, the Leafs went to the Eastern Conference Finals.

fantasybaseballmacbookpro said...

"...but so that this edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs would start believing in themselves."

That's deep man! ;)

general borschevsky said...

Awesome post.

Check out Steen on the forecheck right before Kulemin scores. I hope that is Ron Wilson hockey.

40 said...

The Poni Express may be ridin' this season, but I don't see it going very far without Mats. I hope I'm wrong for the Leafs sake, but I'm more down on him now than ever!! Sorry bro!

eyebleaf said...

@ Chemmy: That's exactly why I've been referencing 1998 for the last two days. Play. Offs.

@ Fantasy: Yeah, I thought it was pretty deep as well. The Leafs, man, they have impacted my soul in a way that I cannot describe.

@ General: Thanks bro. Always appreciate your kind words. And I was impressed by Steen last night. He's a gamer. I think he will flourish under Wilson. I don't think Steen will ever become a 70 point guy, but a 45 point guy who works hard, kills penalties and is dogged on the forecheck is fine by me.

@ 40: Who's Mats? I kid, I kid. What do you want to set the magic number at - how's 18? That's his total from last year. And $50 bones? Holleration.

Skids Mahoney said...

@Chemmy and eyebleaf - don't tease me...

MINS said...

I can't believe I missed this game last night. I am rather ashamed. The reason shall not be mentioned as it is not worthy of missing a Leaf opener.

Loser Domi said...

Holmstrom does have a lot of junk in the trunk. His ass/rest of body ratio is of J-Lo proportions

eyebleaf said...

@ Skids: Skids Mahoney! The tease is on, brother!

@ Mins: What, you don't think I'm going to let everyone know the reason? You're crazy. Mins took some broad out for dinner on opening night. Like I told him last night, his priorities in life are all fucked up.

I hope it was more than dinner, Mins. I hope it was more.

eyebleaf said...

@ LD: What you gonna do with all that junk, all that junk in Holmstrom's trunk?

Loser Domi said...

eyebleaf: I'm gon-gonna *falls down, causing other team to get stupid penalty*

Mike said...

Hey there first timer through Mike Boon's site, I have a blog of my own Buffaloboymike.com I was happy to see the Leafers pull one out. Maybe they won't be as bad as all you Toronto folks think they are.