Farm kids fill in well

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

The Kids are Alright

Who’d a thunk it? The Leafs went into Washington playing with two minor league defensemen and Cory Cross (who should be there given his present form) standing in for the two most experienced blueliners on the roster in Dimitry Yushkevich and Jyrki Lumme as well as Wade Belak. Then of course there was Paul Healey taking Alexander Mogilny’s spot in the line-up and Cory Schwab trying to replace Curtis Joseph (see below). Meanwhile the Caps were finally entering a game with loaded guns having all three of Jaromir Jagr, Adam Oates, and Peter Bondra in the lineup, not to mention the heart and soul of the team in Steve Konowalchuk. The latter had missed a good chunk of the season with a bum shoulder. This one looked like it had payback written all over it from two meetings earlier in the year when the situations were reversed and Toronto came away with 3 of 4 points.

However, that wasn’t the way it turned out. Backed at times by some sparkling goaltending courtesy of Schwab the three understudies held there own enough that the regulars didn’t have to scurry hither and tither trying to cover for their miscues. True, Shayne Corson et al could be seen backing up Karel Pilar when the latter pinched in from the blueline, but that’s part of the plan. In any case, what the Czech rookie was doing was no worse than what a typical night of Jyrki Lumme would hold in store. In fact on one such excursion, he nearly had his first goal, but missed trying to bank the puck in off a forest of legs in front of the net on a great pinch off the rush.
Paul Healey, although not quite a kid at 26 was more successful, tallying his NHL first after Mats Sundin took a bad Alyn McCauley pass and turned it into a brilliant backhand feed to a wide open #26 standing to the side of the cage. Once the puck was on his stick to the roof it went. Kolzig had every right to feel betrayed by his defense on that goal. But there was more to Healey’s game than that one play. In his limited stint so far he has shown that he can be an effective up and down presence on the right side both offensively and defensively in the lower half of the rotation. In fact, although he has been logging most of his icetime with Gary Valk and Alyn McCauley, he has fit in well with Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker when he has had the opportunity.

Marc Moro, on the other hand, didn’t come anywhere close to netting his first in an NHL uniform, but then, that’s not his game. He’s probably best described at this point as a slightly smaller version of Wade Belak when he first arrived in Toronto, although his skating might be marginally better. In his limited time on the ice though he did demonstrate the ability to stick with his man in the defensive zone even while losing equipment along the way as Ulf Dahlen will attest. He’ll most likely be the first player sent down when Belak or Lumme returns, but if he progresses on The Rock anything like the former did since he has been with the Leafs it might not be the last we see of him.