There’s a theory in and outside of Toronto that we, Maple Leafs fans, are most enamored with the blue-collar guys. The Wendel Clarks, Tie Domis and Darcy Tuckers of the world. I’m not here to argue that hypothesis. I loved those guys. But that theory holds true across the board. Who wouldn’t love a guy like Tim Brent, and put him on a pedestal, after what he did Thursday night?
It takes a certain type of individual to haul himself in front of slapshots. Repeatedly. His team down two men halfway through the game, and only leading by one goal, Brent put on a display that would have made Mike Brown proud. Three blocks. One without a stick. Visible agony. And, finally, a diving play to clear the zone. What the fuck’s not to love?
I like to think I’ll remember Brent for his Mats Sundin-like backhand goal, and faked shot-then-snipe on Cam Ward last week. But I won’t. I’ll remember Brent for his one minute shift on the penalty kill, and his self awareness. Brent’s a grinder. And he knows it. A guy who, before the 2010/2011 season, last scored an NHL goal in 2007, when he was an Anaheim Duck, getting his first taste of the show. Blocking shots and winning faceoffs are what will keep him in the league. Tim Brent knows his role, and that might be the biggest compliment I can give him.
For the first time in 362 days, the Maple Leafs kept the opposition off the scoresheet. Really, it shouldn’t have taken this long.
I don’t remember the first four games — wins — of the season; the contests inbetween have led me to drink far too much since then. But I’m quite certain Thursday night’s whitewash of the Carolina Hurricanes was the best the Maple Leafs have played all season. It’s amazing what happens when the defence doesn’t blatantly turn the puck over. And dare I say it: Mike Komisarek has played the part of useful, NHL defenceman over the past two games.
I’m glad, though, that the perfect effort came against Paul Maurice. He deserved it. And I was glad to see Jay Rosehill avenge the honour of Nikolai Kulemin, and fight Tim Gleason. Rosehill’s efforts, by the way, prove that, at $1,000,000 a season, Colton Orr is, on top of being almost completely useless, overpaid.
And: James Reimer. “Optimus Reim.” He’s got a .940 save percentage. In only one game, a 5-1 loss to Phoenix, has it been lower than .932. At even strength, it’s .944. On the penalty kill: .920. And in Toronto’s crease, nine games is a huge, a massive, a larger-than-life sample size. Reimer’s the guy moving forward. Overachieving, obviously, but poised and positionally sound beyond his years.
I want to say that, about Reimer, I won’t get my hopes up. But it’s too bloody late for that. A goalie! One hasn’t been seen around these parts in years. And much respect to J.S. Giguere. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been hard on the guy; it’s nothing personal, I just hate him. As a goalie. But, by all accounts, he’s been great in the room with Reimer, teaching and supporting the future between the pipes.
What? Who the fuck is Jonas Gustavsson?
As of Friday, the Leafs are 10 points out with three games in hand. It’s that time of year. I say it every fucking season, and, in the end, crazier things never happen. But: Crazier things have happened.
One more thing: Jiri Tlusty. First round, 13th overall, in 2006. Draft schmaft.
Image courtesy Reuters, via the fine folks at daylife.