There was a moment in last Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Montreal when the Leafs celebrated Jason Blake’s game-sealing goal in the third period. The players swarmed the diminutive sniper and as Mikhail Grabovski, who assisted on the marker, joined the fray, Blake looked the centre square in the eyes and let out a celebratory yell.
The duo, who not too long ago were being held apart by teammates in practice, seemed to be enjoying an all-is-forgiven moment.
Since getting his latest wake-up call in that practice scrum (one that saw Jeff Finger hold him by the scruff of the neck while Jamal Mayers chastised him for hitting Blake from behind), Grabovski appears to be a changed young man.
In the past three games, Grabbo has seven points and is once again looking like a deadly weapon for the near future. The best qualities that Grabovski possesses are his speed and his offensive drive.
Against Washington on Tuesday, Grabbo was all over the ice — and that includes on the backcheck. You can tell the young man wants the puck and he can do a lot of things with it when he does.
This is a key on a Toronto team that, right now, does not have a lot of top-end skill on offence.
Once again, the Washington game provides a snapshot — both regulation goals came from defencemen.
But since hooking up with Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has taken both Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin under his wing, Grabbo is looking solid. He currently sits fourth in team scoring with 42 points, which also puts him tied for third among NHL rookies.
Originally acquired from the Canadiens for a second-round draft pick and prospect Greg Pateryn, Grabovski has certainly had his ups and downs.
Essentially let go by Montreal because it was already too deep down the middle, Grabbo has been roundly booed by the Habs faithful for his feud with fellow Belarussian Sergei Kostitsyn and for the fact he makes no secret of his distaste for the franchise that dumped him.
Of course, the Leafs can thank the Canadiens and their amazing scouting staff for drafting Grabovski in the first place and a cynic might say it had to take another team to find the Leafs an offensively gifted player in the draft. But that’s neither here nor there.