So how is that Maple Leaf rebuild coming along? I would say just fine.
A couple of weeks ago I did a comparison of the rebuilds in Toronto and Edmonton. Most people advocate the Edmonton approach which is to tank and ice a crappy team for several seasons thereby accumulating a bunch of high draft picks. Brian Burke indicated that he wanted to get better quicker by accumulating young players and prospects instead of draft picks. Many people were sure he was going to fail. Guess what, he hasn't.
Last night's game showcased the two rebuilding teams and the Leafs have made much more progress. The Leafs are the 3rd youngest team in the league at an average player age of 26.2. Only Columbus (25.9) and Nashville (26.1) are younger. Yes, the Leafs are even younger than the Oilers (26.7). The Leafs have just two players at age 30 or over (Connolly and Liles are both just 30) while the Oilers have five players over 30.
Last night the Oilers tried to play a 'run and gun' style of hockey only to find that the Leafs can now skate with them and can play that style even better. The Leafs forwards shredded apart the Oiler defence as they handed the visitors a 6-3 shellacking.
Good - The Leafs forwards were smoking last night. They seemed to enjoy the open tempo set by the Oilers and had no problem gettng behind the Oilers defensemen. Grabovski, Kessel and Lombardi had very strong nights in a game that had little body contact.
Bad - Giving up the first goal 21 seconds into the game is not the best way to start off but the Leafs got their footing shortly after and were able to take back control of the game.
Good - Grabovski got the Leafs back into the game by setting up the first two Leafs goals with very nifty plays. The set up of Gardner was particularly nice as he picked up the puck behind his own net and carried it all the way down to behind the Oiler net before finding Garnder. He is carrying over his strong month of January into February.
Bad - There was some very sloppy play on both sides of the puck. There were 28 giveaways (18 by the Leafs) and 33 takeaways (19 by the Oilers).
Good - James Reimer didn't get another shutout but he was solid in net. He had to be with the number of errors made in front on him.
Bad - This was strictly a non-contact game. The Leafs cannot play like this down the stretch and certainly not in the playoffs if they make it that far.