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The Puck Drops...

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
9:03 p.m.  Recap | Stats | Scoresheet | Photos

Live from Edmonton...

And so it begins, a couple of weeks of pre-season, the tease before the season-long tussle.

The girls and boys from Leafs web and Leafs TV have prepared about as many changes as John Ferguson engineered this offseason: more live streaming, more game and plenty of surprises that I cannot divulge because of all those industrial espionage issues.

And so, just like on Springer, we head to confession.

When Frank Selke advised Sam Pollock to never get to fond of hockey players or horses, he was thinking about people like me.

I am a booster. Doesn't matter who it is, if I feel a player has it, I am blind to his imperfections. All I can see is the good.

Former members of my do no wrong club still skating with the Leafs are Ian White, Tomas Kaberle and John Pohl.

The boys in the cube next door are on me about Anton Stralman. I saw him in one scrimmage, watched his nimble feet and positioning and have posited him as the next big thing to anyone who will listening. Better than Lidstrom and Salming put together, just you wait.

Which is what the next few weeks are for, finding the sure thing who probably isn't and watching the real deal players ease themselves back into the game.

Winter lurks around the corner, as sure as gravity. Baseball exists to herald spring, hockey to bring consolation to winter.

It's starting again. You can't have winter without hockey. If you are stuck win one, you'd better have the other.

The thing is the find, the recognition that an Anton Stralman, or a Vesa Toskala might make the season long journey particularly eventful.
And so we begin.

9:56 p.m.  Recap | Stats | Scoresheet | Photos

Ah yes, I remember now. An unfathomable call on Alexei Ponikarovsky, a shattered stick when Jarret Stoll had an unimpeded shot on goal, a team desperate for offence bringing in Geoff Sanderson.

Some other observations....

There is no comparison between the oft-shaky Justin Pogge of last year and the steady goalie on display against Edmonton.

How can the ice be so good in Edmonton in September?  You know it's exhibition season when the officials give the Leafs Brian Muir a phantom high sticking penalty and nobody says anything.

God bless him, Carlo Colaiacovo says he wants to play every game.   After one period, the notion of a fourth line spot for Tony Salmelainen doesn't seem so remote.

10:37 p.m.  Recap | Stats | Scoresheet | Photos

I miss the stripes.

The Leafs made minor modifications to their uniforms this off-season. The main movement was the ditching of the two horizontal stipes on the bottom of sweater which represents something less than a cosmic re-ordering of the universe.

So why do I miss two little stripes?

I'll tell you a story. I spent some time in a fine clothes shop with my 11-year old daughter. There were four separate compartments with about 40 ties in each section. My daughter and I picked the same tie as our favourite two times out of four. Why? Because some things look right.

Time will tell if the stripes will be an abiding loss. I swore I would never go to a baseball game after the strike, buy small bottles of water to drink or pay more than five bucks for parking.

Wrong every time.

11:45 p.m.  Recap | Stats | Scoresheet | Photos

Well, a fine night for Justin Pogge.

So what else do we know?. The little Finn looked fine, but the difference between he and Boyd Deveraux? A Stanley Cup win with Detroit.

We have another night to wait before seeing Jason Blake playing with Mats Sundin.

Jiri Tlusty played an upper-case game.

And so it begins.
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