Once again, this year’s incarnation of the Blue and White offers fans a choice: Half full or half empty.
For the second time in seven days, the Leafs had what the kids would refer to as an “epic fail” against the Florida Panthers, proving in the process the focus one club has to make the post-season and the lack thereof on the part of the other.
The “half empty” portion of the equation is pretty easy to figure out: This Toronto squad has difficulty holding leads, which becomes doubly toxic considering how often it gives up the first goal in a hockey game.
So where does the “half full” come in? Well, for all you cynical fans out there, the Buds are now officially in position for one of the two amazing assets available in this summer’s entry draft; scoring sensation and hometown boy John Tavares, or behemoth puck-moving Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman. Since the draft order is determined by a weighted lottery, it behooves a bad team to at least be in the NHL’s bottom five in this situation.
Another emerging trend that will shine just a wee bit of light on the hearts of Leaf Nation is the recent play of the once-maligned Jason Blake.
The diminutive winger seems to have learned from the sharp messages sent to him via benchings by straight-talk coach Ron Wilson earlier in the season and is playing his best hockey in a Leafs jersey to date.
To wit; in Blake’s first 20 games with the Leafs this season, he tallied just 10 points. This was also the period in which he was scratched twice and missed a couple games due to a head injury.
But lately, Blake has been on fire, notching 19 points in his past 15 games, including a stunning five-point outburst against the Carolina Hurricanes.
His chemistry with most recent linemates Niklas Hagman and Dominic Moore (a line that essentially unites the three forwards who have been best on the Leafs for different stretches this season) is obvious and the trio is doing it with speed and grit — witness Hagman’s recent puck-off-the-face shift that ended in a goal of the year against Florida last week.
With Blake back to the agitating, driving winger he was during his career year as a member of the New York Islanders, the Leafs are finally seeing the player they signed to a big contract two summers ago.
And while the deal was still no financial steal for the Buds, Blake is certainly proving his worth now. In fact, if he can keep up his current pace, he’ll best his career high in points for a season.
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