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Leafs vs. Thrashers - Live Game Blog

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Recap | Stats | Scoring | Photos Pre | Gi6 | Post | Wilson | Stempniak| Additional Clips

7:44 p.m. - Pre-Game

Lee Stempniak is wearing number 12.

Bit of a rookie mistake. It’s the number everyone used to wear.

Steve Thomas wore 12 but, you remember him more for 32. Ted Kennedy tried it but wisely switched to number 9.

Hall of Famer Gord Drillon wore 12. He was the last Leaf to win the Art Ross Trophy. He did it in 1938. Yep, it’s been a while.

It has been worn by future coaches, Washington Capitals boss Bruce Boudreau wore the number, and executives. Jeff Jackson, the Leafs assistant GM was number 12. Kris King, a hardrock Leaf and now a league executive wore 12.

It has been worn by a who's who of the nondescript, Andy Blair, Eddie Rodden and Lorne Stammler, Wes Jarvis.  Productive Errol Thompson wore the number.

In other words, it’s the number you wear before you move to a better block.

7:59 p.m.

You don’t often see Curtis Joseph snap his head back in agony after a goal.

You don’t often see Curtis Joseph. This is his third start of the season and after a Tomas Kaberle giveaway at the Atlanta blueline, Colby Armstrong went one-on-one with Jeff Finger. Armstrong’s rising shot got past Joseph who no doubt will tell you he was too deep in the net.

This, of course, will happen when you are making your third start in your club’s 20th game. Don’t blame Joseph. Leafs coach Ron Wilson has wanted to get Vesa Toskala in some sort of sync and did not use Joseph in any of the three games of the Western Canadian road trip. The result, I suspect, is a rusty Joseph who hasn’t played in three weeks.

That said, Joseph just delivered a great kick save at the midway point of the period. Another theory debunked. Who knows?

8:16 p.m.

Here’s an easy tip that will tell you if Nik Antropov is on his game.
Antropov, probably the one player who misses Mats Sundin most, has a very commendable tally of seven goals.

But there is a tell-tale sign that he is going well. The puck finds his stick. He is deflecting passes all over the ice and throwing the opposition into no small amount of disarray.

When Antropov is on his game, he is a constant irritant to the opposition. After a hot streak of goals in three straight games, Antropov is goalless over his last three contests.

Joseph stops Ilya Kovulchuk on a clear cut breakaway. The fans are chanting “Cujo, Cujo.”

Could be time to revisit the Curtis Is Rusty Theory.

Atlanta 1, Leafs 0 after a period.

8:49 p.m.

The line of Jason Blake, Dominic Moore and Lee Stempniak might be the smartest unit the Leafs have ever iced.

Stempniak went to Dartmouth, Moore attended Harvard and Blake… well he went to the University of North Dakota.

Think I have the name for the line… the Letter Men. Honestly, sometimes I think I’m too clever for my own good. Someone is going to grab that Letter Men thing and run with it. Posters, memorabilia, you name it.

The Leafs team defence has not been good. The Thrashers got an easy tap-in goal from Todd White. Luke Schenn, positioned in front, didn’t lay a glove on him.

The Leafs have now given up 74 goals against, tied for Dallas for the league high. Ron Wilson is a coach who takes pride in defence. This team is his Everest.

Chris Thorburn hammers at the puck until it goes in. It’s his first goal of the season. Some guys you can only hope to contain.

Just to make me a liar, Nik Antropov scores. The score is 3-1. Lee Stempniak gets an assist and the game is at the halfway point.

9:08 p.m.

Ilya Kovalchuk, rips a shot past Joseph. It’s 4-1 for the bad guys.

A word about lowered expectations.

Of the gifts Cliff Fletcher will leave to his successor (Brian Burke if you read the dailies), his greatest legacy will be lowered expectations.

Fletcher, of course, is a guy who gave Leafs fans reasons for new hope. The architect of the club’s two trips to the final four in the early 1990s.

Because of that run, and a nice bit of work by Pat Quinn, the idea became fact that the Leafs could not truly rebuild. But the salary cap and lockout meant that more than ever, you have to be bad before you can be good.

We were promised nights like this by the kindly white-haired general manager. You may not like it, but you can’t much be surprised by it.

9:44 p.m.

I think it’s amazing that hockey has a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

You pitchfork a guy, it’s spearing, not unsportsmanlike. The only way you can get one is to say something mean. I mean, I know talk can hurt, but isn’t the notion of unsportsmanlike conduct a little outdated?

What constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct for a game that assesses five minute penalties for punching another guy in the mouth?

That is the crucial element of fighting, by the way. The idea that when he enters a fight, a player consents to being punched in the mouth. Otherwise it’s assault and you can get arrested.

Now, with very few exceptions I do not fight people but I can tell you I would not enter a fight if by doing so I gave the person I was fighting clear consent to punch my lights out. I don’t want to hit anyone that badly. But I digress.

Jeff Finger walks off the point and scores his first goal as a Leaf. Make it 4-2.

9:45 p.m.

Mathieu Schneider beats Joseph from a tough angle. Definitely rusty. 5-2.

10:07 p.m.

White’s centering pass ricochets off Schenn’s shin pad and into the Toronto net. That would make it 6-2. Nik Hagman gets one back. It matters not.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. There was this chick movie called Steel Magnolias.

Kind of a Terms of Endearment knock off. Putrid actually.

But it had Olympia Dukakis who I kind of like. I like Pat Quinn too. Come to think of it, they sort of look alike although Pat may be just a touch prettier.

Anyway, Olympia is talking about the male psyche.

“All of it,” she said. “Hanging by a thread.”

Which is the way it is with sports and the way it always will be as long as you play with people. “That’s sports,” Curtis Joseph was saying earlier in the day. “No scripts.”

If the Leafs had managed to hold on to their 3-0 lead against Chicago on Saturday, would their confidence had withered as it did against Atlanta?

Had Vesa Toskala been able to steal a win in the many games the Leafs were outshot, would Wilson have given Joseph a start earlier so he could at least have some feel for the game instead of being off for three weeks?

Confidence is a mystical element in sports. Players work to generate it but every time it finds them, they don’t find it. The Leafs confidence seemed to vapourize 6:50 in when Armstrong opened the scoring.

The Leafs lose 6-3. They are 7-9-5 and it feels like a long time between wins.

It is, actually, 12 days…and counting.
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