The NHL awards a Silver Stick to players who have played 1000 career games in the NHL. In the Maple Leafs locker room, Jake Gardiner is known as 'Silver Stick'. The reason being, although he only just played his 42nd game in the NHL, he plays with the confidence and savvy of a veteran well beyond his years. Gardiner scored his first career NHL goal tonight and added an assist for his 14th point as a Toronto Maple Leaf but his biggest play of the game came with a blocked shot at a key moment in the game that could have turned the tide in the Islanders favor.
Mikhail Grabovski had an enormous game of his own as well notching 1G and 3A, what I would say was the most well-rounded game a Maple Leaf has played all season(Lupul comes second, a few times). Grabo scored the go-ahead goal late in the third before the Islanders sent it to overtime and then assisted on the game winning goal by Clarke MacArthur 2:06 into the overtime period.
One last thing I need to mention or I wont forgive myself. Al Montoya's (almost) save! I have to admit after I was able to collect my jaw from the ground I was so flustered I could barely get the letters 'O M G' out of my mouth.
Three Final Thoughts
1. This game could be incredibly significant for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur have had their names thrown around in trade rumors and with a performance such as this from both players, those rumors are only going to become more and more frequent. The Maple Leafs brass will have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks. If Grabo and MacArthur continue this level of play but the Leafs do not continue to win I believe one if not both of them will be dealt. However, if the Leafs continue to win and are in the hunt to make the playoffs they will need to strongly consider keeping them for the run unless something comes along they cannot turn down.
2. Although the Leafs were able to pull out a win there are many things they need to work on. The most notable mistakes they made were poor turnovers to the wrong people. The Leafs turned the puck over in the offensive zone on the powerplay which led to a 2 on 1 and an Islanders shorthanded goal. Jake Gardiner made a key shot block after a turnover which should have been a goal and really would have taken the wind out of the Leafs sails.
3. Finally, the Leafs need to bring in a big player that can score and provide some toughness. Kessel spent the majority of the first two periods battling, hacking and slashing with Islander players who had been all over him anytime he even looked at the puck. At one point Travis Hamonic appeared to be holding Phil Kessel at arms length as an adult would a toddler. To be the big, truculant team Brian Burke wants them to be either somebody will need to step up big time or they will need to bring in some hired guns for a playoff run.
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