Well, folks, it doesn't really get much better than last night's season opener for Leafs fans. Their 3-2 win over the defending champ Red Wings was a BIG surprise for Leafs Nation, though it's not like all of us sudden we think we've got a Cup contender on our hands. However, fair play to the Leafs for outworking the Wings and sticking to their game plan. They don't play particularly pretty hockey, but the boys looked like they have grit and heart--if they can keep that up, they're going to be an easy team to love even if they don't win a lot of games.
Toskala looked good in net from the extensive highlights I watched online. Sure, the Wings hit a lot of posts, but he still made some huge saves, especially toward the end of the game. I was very impressed with Kulemin's move on the breakaway for the winning goal--very pretty. The whole team played as a unit and, unlike last year, they managed to hold on to the lead despite heavy pressure from the Wings later in the third period.
Eighteen year old rookie Luke Schenn got 17 minutes of ice time--he was paired with the always-solid Tomas Kaberle and had a very good game, not looking like the very young rookie he is. This is a positive sign as he could be the cornerstone of the Leafs' defence corps for years to come.
As the post game report on Mapleleafs.com noted, the further into the game the Leafs got, the more comfortable they looked and this, too, is a very encouraging sign for an extremely green team. After this win, I am even more excited for this season and not because I am convinced we are going to be a great team. Rather, I am interested in watching a team that has soul, that fights, and that plays as a team, rather than what has been (mostly) crap the past number of seasons. They're young, they're hungry, and so I think that means we're going to see a few surprises from the Buds before the 2008-09 season is through...