It seems Tim Connolly will make his regular season debut tomorrow night in New York against the Rangers and Brad Richards. For a couple weeks now Connolly has been getting negative press regarding how fragile he is due to his shoulder injury he suffered during a team practice. The question that should be asked is whether or not he will have a positive effect on the Lupul-Kessel chemistry that has seemed to come to fruition within the last few weeks. It may be fitting that his first important game with the Leafs this season comes against the team that got the star centre Toronto was looking for before signing him. That fact I’m sure is not lost on him and could have an excellent game because that. Or he could have an awful game that results in no points for that line. Either way Connolly is a talented centre that SHOULD provide more skill for the Kessel line than has previously been seen on the Leafs since Mats Sundin departed.
Jonus Gustavsson completed a short stint as the starter for the Leafs last Monday in a 4-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. Although he took the loss in Philly and allowed Montreal to tie the game last Saturday, he did play well considering he was getting no help in either game. Now, I don’t like his game personally, especially because he doesn’t exactly exhume confidence through his teammates or him self for that matter. What he does do well is adapt to an opposition’s offensive zone coverage. When the chips are down, and there is a pile up at the net, he seems to keep the puck out more often than not. What is difficult is to have the glove reflex to save a 20 footer that is being shot at 90Mph on a break-away. I don’t even James Reimer would have saved that Jagr shot…TWICE! The fact he made an outstanding save the first time shows this kid has the skill, he just needs the confidence to go with it. I’m not worried, he looks good so far, but needs more time.
Which player on the Maple Leafs playing is playing the best to his ability?
If you answer Kessel, you would be wrong. He could be playing better. If he stays consistent, then there is always room to grow. If you say Dion Phaneuf, then I really hope you aren’t serious. If this is the BEST Phaneuf can play, he needs a pay cut for sure. Phaneuf has made tons of improvement but again it s all about consistenty. Nope, the one player that has done what he was brought here to do right from the beginning and is excelling at his game seems to be David Steckel. The 6’5 217 pound centre has been a BEAST in the face-off circle and has been on the ice for countless “Key” goals so far this season.
The player I want to see break out this season has got to be the Captain Dion Phaneuf. So far this season he has been back to form from his rookie campaign when he still played for the Calgary Flames. He will be the spark this team needs this season during the grind of winning “winnable” games, and challenging in the tough ones. I love his offensive game so far, and his physical game seems to be growing with every passing contest. His job this season is to bring this team over that preverbal regular season hump to see his team reach the post-season since eight calendar years ago. Do I think he can do it? Yes. Can he do it by himself…can any Captain do it by himself? He needs the important players on this team to to what they are capable of doing in order to ignite optimism for making the playoffs. Not to mention going on a few sizeable winning streaks this season. Without a 5-10 game winning streak this season, I just can’t see the Leafs making the playoffs by march 2012.