Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Leafs lose 5-2, but at least Domi Wins the Shootout

It's not much of a consolation after a 5-2 loss to the Sabres, but the Leafs can at least take some solace in the result of the post-game shootout. During the game, the Leafs ran into a very hot Ryan Miller, who CBS Sportsline has listed as the current league leader in save %, at .970.

It took sixteen shooters in the post-game shootout, before the Leafs finally won it on Domi's goal. Ed Belfour was a perfect 8-for-8 on the shootout, although he did let in 5 goals during the game. 4 of the regulation time goals came on the powerplay, as Buffalo was 4-for-12. Ryan Miller was 7-for-8, before giving up the goal to Domi.

For the second time, Leafs fans booed Nikolai Antropov when he stepped on the ice during the shootout. Showing his good nature, Antropov waved the booing crowd on, encouraging them to continue. THIS HAS TO STOP! Antropov has been arguably the best Leaf player during the preseason, is a hard-worker, a great penalty killer, and is ready to step his game up to the next level, now that his knees have had time to heal up.

As far as the Leafs on the bubble go, it looks like Kyle Wellwood, Alexander Steen, Steve Thomas, Nathan Perrot, Clark Wilm, Matthew Stajan, and Chad Kilger are battling for the final three roster positions at forward; Bryan Marchment, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Staffan Kronwall are battling for the 6th and 7th defensive spots (With Belak seeming like a lock for the 8th defensive spot, given the one-way contract and the way Quinn and Ferguson have spoken about him), while Tellqvist and Racine are battling it out for the backup goalie position.

At the forward position, Wellwood is making a great case for himself to stick with the big club. Matthew Stajan earned his spot on the roster after a tremendous rookie season with limited playing time, and should stick with the club. I would really like to see Wellwood and Stajan make the big club this year. I'm torn on the final spot, although I'd like to see one of Steen, Thomas, Kilger or Wilm in the position. Steen has been playing some decent defensive hockey, and has shown that he is ready to play in the NHL, but with limited North American hockey experience, he could use a year playing on the first line for the Marlies. I'd like to see Thomas in the Leafs uniform again, but it's hard to make the decision to give Thomas the nod over a player like Steen. For me, if the choice was between Thomas, Kilger and Wilm, it would be a tossup, as each brings a slightly different skillset to the team.

On defense, I'm guessing we will see Colaiacovo and Marchment make the club as the 6th and 7th defensemen. Kronwall shows that he is ready for league, and should get some time in with the big club this season, but would do well to put in a full season with first line minutes with the Marlies.

In goal, I am somewhat between the choice of Tellqvist and Racine. Tellqvist has performed well in international play for Team Sweden, and has played well in stretches in the AHL. Is Tellqvist ready for a full season with the Leafs? The mitigating factor is that the Leafs are going to be playing in a tough Eastern Conference race for a playoff spot, and every game of the season will be critical. With newly drafted Tuukka Rask coming up the pipeline, and a 40-year old most likely in his last season with the Leafs, it's time for the 25-year old Tellqvist to show what he can do in the league. In my opinion, Tellqvist has shown patience with the Leafs organization, and I believe that they should reward him with a full season as the backup to show what he can do.