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.

Comments (11)

  1. Interested in your thoughts on the Devils from last night as well. Your opinion of Larsson, Henrique, etc.

  2. You didn’t get choked up at the goalie mask beer taps and Burkie’s Dog House like I did? Hmph…

  3. “Distached” – I like that. :-) Very true. Wilson always looks like he’s standing behind the bench waiting for a bus.

  4. Did they have the 3-stripe at the bottom jerseys on (with the curved text), or the 2 stripe with the flat text?

  5. Any other TO reactions? Did you get to the HOF?

  6. yeah, anything about the devils?

  7. Pretty great night to be a Fighting Sioux Fan last night..

    Not only did the (R) Matt Frattin get a goal, but I thought Parise played another great 2-way game.. Is it weird to think he wants out of New Jersey??

  8. A lot of people outside of NJ would like to think he wants out of NJ. Even if he does, he’d never say so, the type of guy he is. He’s got the C for a reason. And since he has the C, you’d think Lou would do what he needed to do, but I guess you just don’t know.

    • Agree, Lou should lock it up, but I think he lost his leverage after signing a 1 year deal. Parise’s agent will be looking to take offers come time now. Then let Lou have his shot..

      Everyone thinks he’d want to go to Minnesota…

      I don’t think that’s the case, his only ties to Minnesota is Fairbuilt, he hates the Gophers & most other NCAA teams in the state (he still remembers the gutless clutching & holding he suffered while at UND), he never played High School Hockey teams due to Shattuck’s unbelieveable schedule.

      I think he’s going for a longer term, with a team that’s a player or two away from Stanley Cup.. The Devils and there irregular player salaries is going to opened up by his agent informing him of other offers..

      • The one year deal is a big mystery. What was Zach looking for that Lou wouldn’t give? Was it the knee injury that made Lou weary of locking him in long term? Is it the money or cap space? (Devils have some cash, notably Marty, coming off the books next year)

        I’d be surprised if Minn offers him the deal he’s looking for. He does have more ties to the area, other than hockey. I believe his dad lives up there. Still, Minn is a longshot. I think he’s going to demand a stable, long term deal with a contender. The question up in the air is if the Devils have the cash on hand to offer it, and if not the Devils, who will step up with that sort of offer?

        Kings? Could one of the Canadian teams afford it?

  9. Nice breakdown Justin. Just remember us commenters when you hit the big time on tv!

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