Blake Comeau piled up three well-earned assists with deft passing, Tim Jackman and Richard Park continued the weekend's "Look Who Scored!" theme, and Matt Moulson just keeps on chipping in goals. A fun game (though frequently interrupted by penalties), with a nice Martin Biron performance, a late powerplay tally by Moulson and another(!) clean sheet by the PK unit.
But you can't help thinking this year's Maple Leafs have a way of making every team look good, including the Bruins come June 25. A tough Western trip will be a better gauge of how the Isles play out the string.
My oh my the Leafs remind me of last year's Isles -- a firesale-depleted and well-deserved entry to the league's outhouse. There are bits of light here and there mixed with confounding moments of fail or stupidity. A bright light: Phil Kessel's shot. A flip side: Phil Kessel's decision-making.
Where oh where did the concept of "take a number" disappear to? Son, your team is down by two in the third, and you have you have just received the opportunity you need to get back in the game. Now is not the time to cost your team a lengthy 5-on-3 -- and put your greatest powerplay weapon in the box (that's YOU) -- by chopping at Freddy Meyer's foot in petty retaliation. Once again, kids: Take a number, and exact revenge at the next opportunity that works for your team. Extra credit if you exact revenge through a legal hit. (But who am I kidding? Nobody does that anymore -- that requires patience.)
Of course that calls to mind the Leafs' other failings: A powerplay that made the Islanders PK look great, even when Mark Streit was in the box. Maybe Kessel knew what he was doing after all.
The Evolution of Blake Comeau?
It must be said: Blake Comeau had another very solid game, and he made heads-up plays for three assists (Frans Nielsen is the only goal I didn't mention) in all three phases (SH, PP, EV). We've seen him play this well in the past -- though for shorter stretches and with more frequent spurts of perimeter play -- so could this be something else? Could this be Comeau turning the corner? We won't know but with time. But it looks good. Said Scott Gordon:
"The way (Comeau) has played in the past 3-4 weeks, you see flashes of things you get excited about as a coach and an organization," Gordon said.
That sounds right.
Oh Look, Courageous Dion's in the East Now
Speaking of Vengeance, NHL Distorted Versions Of: Dion Phaneuf -- he who took out Kyle Okposo's head during a preseason game before the Flames dumped him -- took a high run along the boards at John Tavares that mostly missed. Matt Martin was right there and boarded Phaneuf, taking a penalty, that most Isles fans would gladly accept.
Just like that night last September though, someone else stepped in to take care of Dion's needs. This time Jamie Lundmark challenged Martin, with Martin ultimately ready to go but first indicating, "Um, shouldn't the head-hunting Frankenph'neuf fight his own battles, or is he still above that?" The officials jumped in to prevent a full-on fight (perhaps also offended that Lundmark wanted to fight for Dion?), and nothing came of it. The rest of the game was chippy-ish, but mostly in a calm way. No fights ever emerged; I doubt one had anything to do with the other.
If you missed it, here is video of the sequence. I notice Phaneuf's forearm-first checking technique (when he misses Tavares, he hits the glass elbow first) is, um, well it's not how I was taught to bodycheck -- but then I'm not sure "bodycheck" is even a term anymore.
All told, I was happy with how the Islanders treated Phaneuf in their first encounter since The Preseason Hit. With guys like Martin hopefully around for the future, I trust they'll know how to handle Phaneuf's headhunting since, well, it's not like Dion's going to fight, NHL "police themselves"-style.
This and That
- Right after I praise Moulson for scoring 20 of his 23 goals at even strength, he goes and notches numbers 24 and 25 on the powerplay. Might I interest you in some stock advice?
- Martin Biron was good. Locked down the Leafs for 59 minutes (and seven Leafs powerplays) after the opening-minute breakaway goal by Kuleman.
- The line of Tim Jackman, Richard Park and Trevor Gillies produced a hard-work goal. That's what you hope for from a fourth line every now and then, particularly on teams like the Leafs. The grin on Jackman's face through his cage was priceless.
- Atlanta lost a shootout, Tampa Bay lost in regulation (after idiot Steve Downie tried to snap Sidney Crosby's leg), the Rangers trumped Philly. The West Coast trip could easily change things, but right now the Islanders aren't playing like they want an easy route to the lottery:
Man, it sure looks like Boston's getting a star or two come June.
Up Next: Vancouver Tuesday, followed by back-to-back in Anaheim and Los Angeles Friday and Saturday night. Some good tests ahead. That's a long flight:
Does Martin's emergency recall end, or will Jeff Tambellini be ready to go? Update: Botta says Martin goes back to Bridgeport. (h/t Hans und Franz in comments)