I’ve seen plenty of Toronto Maple Leafs games in my day, but last night was my first chance to go to the ACC and see them in person. Spoiled with seats 10 rows from the ice, I had a pretty darn good view too.
Here are ten things I thought during that experience.
Jake Gardiner is really good, has huge potential.
This was observation 1A. I’m sure it’s not news to any Leafers out there, but fans everywhere should get this kid on their radar. He played his way onto the team this year, and last night I saw why.
He’s insanely confident with the puck (probably too much so right now), skates well, and changes direction with ease, meaning he has potential to be a one man break-out. ….Once he learns that the goal isn’t to have the puck for as long as humanly possible, and moves it up to his forwards quicker. Speaking of break-outs….
The Leafs had a tough time breaking out.
“Tough” is about the most generous word I could use, especially in the first period. The worst part was, the turnovers weren’t caused by some pinching d-man – they were passes thrown up the gut that were dead picked off. It could’ve been worse than a 2-0 deficit after the first.
The crowd is different, but not bad.
I had heard plenty of reviews of the crowd at the ACC. “Quiet,” “corporate,” generally not comprised of the real fans who just don’t have the silly amount of dough necessary to pay for the good seats.
I may have been lucky in that I caught a close game in which the Leafs came back and pushed it to OT, but the crowd was pretty damn loud towards the end of the game, I was impressed. That said, the lower bowl where I was sitting was wholly comprised of people in leather shoes, dress pants and collars. It reminded me of a Lakers game at Staples Center – part of going is to tell people you’re going, be at “the scene,” and be a part of the spectacle.
Ron Wilson seems sorta…detached, or something.
From what I can tell, Ron Wilson seems to do very little actual coaching. During TV timeouts, the Devils were huddled around, sometimes with a whiteboard, talking. Peter DeBoer was periodically hollering stuff to the players on the ice. Wilson just kinda stood there most of the time, arms crossed, taking in the kiss cam or something.
Even in the biggest moments towards the end of the game, Scott Gordon was the guy speaking with the team (I understand that the powerplay may be his to run, but still…seems like Wilson might have two cents to add at that point).
Kessel is a neutral zone spitfire.
This is something I remember about Phil from college, but it’s incredible to see how next-level it’s gotten. When his legs are going, he reminds me of an NHLer playing drop-in summer shinny. Just….so much better than everyone else. He has “pull you out of your seat” speed at this point, where the crowd starts to make an audible noise and get excited everytime he gets the puck.
Walter Gretzky has it tough.
My feeling is, Walter Gretzky must have some kind of deal with the Leafs, where he A) gets those great seats and B) gets paid handsomely to attend their home games in turn for signing autographs. The poor guy dutifully rises at every intermission, stands at the bottom of the stairs, and waits to sign every piece of paper and take every picture asked of him.
If my cynical ass is wrong, then WOW, he might just be one of the nicest men on the planet. Frankly, he might be anyway – he was super kind and patient with everyone who came by.
The Leafs jerseys are just so nice.
I’ve mentioned I think they’re the best in the League before (all original six jerseys are in the conversation), but in person, they just looked so, so sharp. I bet the white’s look ballerrrrrrr.
The TV timeouts are deplorable.
This is the case everywhere you go, but the Leafs should be able to do better. Those were just painful. Did that guy on the mic have a Boston accent?
Joffrey Lupul has some serious “swag” right now.
I mentioned that Jake Gardiner has no fear of hanging onto the puck for excess amounts of time (confidence!). Lupul is the same way, except he better uses his body to protect the puck and by himself more time.
The most underrated play last night may have been his breakout pass to Kessel on the “Kessel rush” where Brodeur stacked the pads on him. …That, or the Patrick Elias tip to Zach Parise on the David Clarkson powerplay goal.
And last but not least, James Reimer is terrific.
But you all knew that already. He has that big body jammed right under the crossbar, and reads the play beautifully. He stuffed some nice wraparounds last night, and earned the (loser) point for the Leafs.