Leafs draw first blood … literally

Mike Komisarek took a stick to the face and several stitches from Mats Sundin.
The Canadiens blew a 3-1 lead …. but they salvaged a point as Tomas Kaberle scored in OT to give the Leafs a 4-3 victory in a game Toronto had to win.

Not the best night of Cristobal Huet’s career.
He mishandled the puck to set up one Toronto goal and looked weak on the winner.

While some Canadiens – notably Christopher Higgins, Alex Kovalev and everyone on the fourth line – battled all night, others took shifts off.

Don’t be surprised if Guy Carbonneau juggles his lineup when the Canadiens play at Pittsburgh Wednesday night.

Don Cherry: “I’m glad the Leafs won.”
Watch ALL the NFL games tomorrow.
Watch every game of the baseball playoffs.
If you hear ANY announcer say he’s happy a team won I’ll come to your house and cook Thanksgiving dinner for your whole family. And I’ll bring the wine, do the dishes and walk your dog.
What bush-league crap … and the ROC loves this clown.
I’m voting Yes next time.

• • •

OT 1:34 At least it didn’t take long. Kaberle smokes one past Huet.

OT 1:42 You knew that was coming. Bouillon fails to tie up Sundin and is penalized.

OT 2:07 Seven more times these teams will get to try to kill each other. I expect a brawl in the shootout.

OT 02:52 Toskala’s been unreal

OT 4:00 Sundin plays very chippy for a Swede, eh? Where’s that nice Borje Salming?

Third Period 00:00 Whew! Can’t fault that PP. So, at least a point.

Third Period 01:29 Finally … leafs get called. Their D is hanging on by their fingernails.

Third Period 05:00 Canadiens keep skating. No matter how it ends up, admirable heart and guts on display. Toskala has kept the Leafs in it.

Third Period 09:00 Pinch me I’m dreaming. Latendresse played a decent shift. And then Komisarek whiffs to give Sundin a scoring chance.
My nerves can’t take this.

Third Period 13:46 Time for a dumb penalty so the Leafs can take the lead. It’s April 7 all over again here.

Third Period 16:00 Where’s that great PP we saw in Carolina?

Third Period 16:34 What a terrible play by a great player. markov coughs it up and it’s 3-3.

Koivu and Plekanec: 16-7 on faceoffs.
Sundin: 2-9.

Scott Mellanby on the Hot Stove: A total treat. Smart, articulate guy. And he was a helluva player.

• • •

What have we learned in 20 minutes?

• Cristobal Huet is a fine goaltender and a terrible puckhandler
• Andrei Markov has played 17 minutes and 21 seconds of great hockey.
• Christopher Higgins is the best two-way forward on the team.
• Roman Hamrlik was a very good acquisition. He never panics.
• Tom Kostopoulos is another good addition. So’s Smolinski. Gainey went 3-for-3.
• Remember that guy Dandenault fighting for a job in training camp? He’s found one.
• Andrei Kostitsyn is so talented he can suck all night and still score.
• The Toronto defence is horrible. McCabe and Kaberle are the most overpaid players in the league. Hal Gill? A joke.
• The Toronto forwards aren’t horrible. They’re dangerous … but they’re a bit slow.
• Vesa Toskala is the real deal.

• • •

And there we go.
Cristobal Huet, who’s terrible at handling the puck, sets up the Leafs for the goal that puts them back in the game, with 1:10 left.
This is a nightmare.

Hey, let’s avoid the late second period goal that lets them back into the game.

Second Period 02:something Now the clock has gone on RDS.

Second Period 03:07 Kovalev mystifies Ian White and feeds the heretofore somnambulant Kostitsyn.

Second Period 05:09 I’m getting this weird audio on RDS HD. It swells and fades.

Second Period 06:30 Kostopoulos blocks a McCable blast and then limps over to steal the puck and clear the zone. The guy can play … but not on the PP.

Second Period 08:00 Latendresse is playing crap and just took his second penalty. It’s early in the season, but the needs some serious pressbox time. Bring on Chipchura.

Second Period 08:50 At last, a decent shift by the Russians.

Second Period 10:52 Haven’t seen Tucker back.

Second Period 11:28 Not a good night for the Breezer. Carbo might have to shorten the bench in the third period.

Second Period 13:25 Those are some ugly stitches … and near Komisarek’s eye. RDS guys say Dandenault is playing great.

Second Period 13:51 Chris Higins is playing the game of his life. Feeding Markov for the first shorthanded goal of the season.

Second Period 15:46 Why is the fourth line on the PP?

Second Period 16:25 Toskala is heating up.

Second Period 17:19 Tucker is banged up, and Canadiens go on the PP.

Second Period 19:40 Komisarek is back … and belts Blake.
Smolinski is back on the fourth line.

• • •

So will the second line show up tonight or what?
They’re sleep-walking.
And it’s still tied, so there’s hope.

• • •

Don gets a number 6 Leafs jersey.
He’s ticked off because they gave him a “visitoooor” sticker, which Cherry discards.
We’ll start with analysis of the Leafs’ two losses to Ottawa.
Big rant about Tucker not getting enough minutes.
Wants him on the top line, instead of Antropov.
News Flash: Cherry says Leafs will make the playoffs. McLean agrees.
Now an AHL report on the Marlies.
Kids, don’t play like Steve Downie.
Thanksgiving wishes for hockey parents.
No mention of the Canadiens … and that’s not a complaint.

• • •

Oof, gonna be a war tonight.
Shots were 9-9.
Hits were 7-6 Toronto, but theirs were a lot harder.

I can’t fathom that last PP: Kostopoulos?
Kostistyn, who’s in a total fog tonight?
Latendresse, who looks so slow he ought to be wearing a blue jersey.

Cherry time.

First Period 00:40 Sundin cracks Komisarek with his stick. No call.

First Period 02:30 Higgins draws another penalty. He’s working his butt off. PP is Grabovksi, Latendresse and Kovalev. Then Kostopoulos, Plekanec and Kostitsyn.

First Period 04:00 Kostitsyn on the PP? Lost.

First Period 05:19 Higgins gets back to foil a 3-on-1 and then draws a penalty.

First Period 06:00 Kovy and the Kids are totally not in this game. Carbo has Smolinski back with Plekanec and Latendresse. Kostopoulos to the fourth line, I guess.

First Period 09:50 What a terrible call. Hal Gill pushes Higgins into Toscala, and McCreary calls obstruction. Captain K shoots the puck at the ref.
Hey, save that for Kerry Fraser.

First Period 10:00 Roman Hamrlik is one of the few defencemen who doesn’t look totally rattled.

First Period 12:22 Sundin line is killing the Russians.

First Period 13:20 Funny game. It was all Leafs for a couple shifts, then the Koivu line exerted some pressure, off Andre Markov’s penetration.
BIG physical disparity, though.
Latendresse finished a check with a hit that probably reminded Toronto fans of Inge Hammarstrom.

First Period 14:34 It all started with inept zone clearing. Kovalev tried to outlet to Kostitsyn, who misplayed it.
Ian White makes it 1-1.

First Period 16:34 Darcy Tucker bounces off Bouillon. But here’s the Sundin line.

First Period 16:45 Great shift by the fourth line, and Dandenault pops one.
Leafs’ defence looked slow and stupid.

First Period 19:00 Chad Kilger sets the tone, hammering Brisebois.

• • •

The Essentials – ????? – sing Wayne Gretzky’s second favourite Canadian song.

• • •

Ritual: Breezer at the dressing room door, giving the glove tap to each player as he comes out.

• • •

Bob Cole and Greg Millen.
No Harry Neale, but I’m watching Pierre and Yvon regardless.

• • •

Wayne Gretzky says “the greatest song in Canada” is the Hockey Night theme music. It sends a shiver up his spine.
What, more than the Ford theme?

• • •

Benoit Brunet says he thought from the day Brisebois was signed he would be a Top 4 defenceman.

Jacques Demers talks about transition. Canadiens have to get the puck out of their zone quickly, with a solid first pass.

And Guy Carbonneau says it’s crucial to stay out of the penalty box. Demers points out that Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle killed them on them on the PP last season.

• • •

Meanwhile, on the CBC, John Ferguson Jr. is talking very frankly about John Muckler flirting with the team and the likelihood that Scotty Bowman would have cleaned house.
Nice guy, JFJ. Good pedigree.

• • •

RDS does a feature with Canadiens equipment guy Pierre Gervais on the new jerseys. Didn’t I read somewhere that Reebok is doing a rethink on the design?

• • •

Bob Gainey, in conversation with Ron McLean, keeps referring to the Canadiens as “Montreal” and “they”.
Gainey says Tom Kostopoulos brings more grit and muscle on the boards than Mike Johnson did last season.

• • •

Yvon Pedneault says Darcy Tucker really misses Kyle Wellwood.

• • •

Christopher Higgins tells Chantal Machabée the Canadiens have to “keep it simple”, us their speed, get pucks deep and shoot.

• • •

Scared to death of that Mats Sundin-Nik Antropov-Jason Blake line.

And RDS is wondering how Mark Streit will fare against a big, physical team. And they’re asking whether Patrice Brisebois can play 21 minutes against the Leafs.

• • •

Can’t remember which network I was watching last April, but I’m going to start with RDS tonight.
Will switch over to the People’s network for Don Cherry.

• • •

The Toronto Maple Leafs are winless in two starts.

This means a challenging night for your Montreal Canadiens.

If the Leafs begin their season 0-3, hockey fans in Canada’s largest city will be in full panic mode. Hysteria will engulf the executive suite, where general manager John Ferguson Jr. is clinging to his job.
And Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated predicts Paul Maurice will be the first coach fired this season as Ferguson desperately tries to save his own ass.

The heat is on in TO.
Let’s hope the Canadiens don’t get burned.

Remember last April 7?
On a day that will live in infamy, the Leafs bombarded Cristobal Huet with 23 shots in the first period.
He stopped 21 of them, and I strongly suspect the Canadiens goaltender will have to be equally sharp tonight.

I don’t have a good feeling about this game.
And neither does Dany Dubé. The CKAC analyst said he expects Toronto to lay on the muscle and win.
Dubé hastened to add, however, that he predicted a Carolina win on Wednesday night.

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