Blog Entry

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

Posted on: February 1, 2012 3:23 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 3:28 pm
Mikhail Grabovski is playing his best hockey right now. (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- As difficult as it had to be for the Toronto Maple Leafs to watch a three-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play turn into a 5-4 shootout loss on Tuesday night, costing them a crucial point in the standings, there were still a couple of positives developments.

One of the biggest: the continued emergence of forward Mikhail Grabovski, and it couldn't be coming at a better time for the Maple Leafs.

The team is well into the stretch run and hoping to end what has been one of the longest playoff droughts in the league, being one of just two teams (the Panthers being the other) to not make the playoffs in the post-lockout NHL.

Coming out of the All-Star break they started the week as one of three teams deadlocked for what would be the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference,  which is why that loss in Pittsburgh was so damaging (potentially, anyway). The race is so tight right now that they can't afford to let any points slip away like that, especially when it's during a game they completely controlled for over 50 minutes against one of the teams they're chasing.

But the Leafs were still hopeful to build on the things they did well in the loss.

"You can definitely build on the positives," said forward Joffrey Lupul after the game. "Unfortunately it's starting to get to the time of the year where you need results, but there is a lot to build on there. We played one of our better games of our year for 50 minutes, and it's terrible to let that point get away, but we did have some positives to build on."

Among the positives: Toronto continued its recent run of disciplined play, putting itself in a shorthanded situation just one time on the night. Over their past 11 games, a stretch that has seen the Leafs put together a 6-4-1 record and allow just a little over two goals per game, they have been shorthanded just 12 times, including three games with no penalty killing situations. That is probably the best (and only) way to hide what has been the league's 30th ranked penalty killing unit this season.

Perhaps the biggest positive, though, was the aforementioned play of Grabovski as he completed his best month of the season with a two-goal performance that also saw him finish with seven shots on goal, two blocked shots and a 50 percent mark in the faceoff circle. And he did all of that while spending the majority of his night on the ice against Evgeni Malkin's line, which is no small assignment.

Getting minutes against the oppositions best player hasn't been a new situation for Grabovski. During the month of January, for example, he saw most of his shifts in individual games come against forwards like John Tavares (Islanders), Milan Michalek (Senators), Ryan Callahan (Rangers), Derek Roy (Sabres), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Evander Kane (Jets) and Steven Stamkos (Lightning). Despite drawing the top assignments, he still finished the month with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists), which was tied with Malkin for the second most in the league, trailing only Tavares.

This all comes after what had been a pretty slow start offensively, having recorded just 19 points over the first three months of the season, a total he nearly matched in January alone. The Leafs offense this season has been carried almost entirely by the play of its top line, Lupul and Phil Kessel, and there is going to be a need for some secondary scoring if/when that top line slows down. Grabovski has demonstrated throughout his career that he's capable of providing, even when given the task of matching up against the other teams top lines, which can open things up a bit more for Kessel and Lupul.

"He's playing well right now," said Lupul of Grabovski's play. "He had two [on Tuesday] and he could have had a lot more. He's bringing a lot of energy right now you can really see he has his confidence back and has his legs going."

Eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, he would surely be one of the most attractive players to hit the open market (if a new deal isn't signed before then) given his skill-level, production and ability to match up against top talent and keep them in their own end of the ice.

Grabovski, who was celebrating his 28th birthday on Tuesday, didn't want to talk all that much about his own performance or his confidence level, simply saying "I'll start to feel better when we win the games, that's the most important thing."

If he keeps playing like he did in January, the wins might start coming a little more often.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 11:30 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

You have to go back 19 years for a quote from a losing coach to support your proposition that the Habs are somehow favourites, Did you not even watch the playoff last year when the Habs came within a goal of beating the eventual champion Bruins, without one of their top offensive players, out from an effectively unpenalized hit from a Bruin, and in the last period several cheap shots by Bruin players went uncalled? And how in heck are the Habs fostering a "racist pro-Francophone dogma"??? By having at most three Quebecers on the team, none of them a star player and hiring a temporary Anglophone coach? Are you upset they didn't make it permanent? How does any of this even begin to refute the point that Grabovski will be overpaid next year?
I can't even say you're living in the past because what you say never really ever was true.

Since: Aug 4, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:11 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

1993 : when refs allowed 8, count 'em, 8 Hab skaters to score a goal against Islanders in the playoff semi-finals.

Al Arbour, coach of Islanders then, said (and he's right) "It's obvious that there's one set of rules for Montreal, and another set of rules for the rest of the league".

Habs suck BIG Time because they are the league's darlings, treated with kid gloves, and allowed to foster a racist pro-Francophone dogma.

Since: Sep 28, 2011
Posted on: February 3, 2012 12:42 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Feb 2, 2012
Posted on: February 2, 2012 3:35 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time


Since: Jan 15, 2009
Posted on: February 2, 2012 2:08 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

He has raised his level of play and the Leafs need it badly. Toronto has not had a solid center in a while.nIt would be great for Toronto and the NHL if they could somehow get back into the playoffs.

Since: Mar 30, 2010
Posted on: February 2, 2012 12:48 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

trading or not re-signing this guy would be a huge mistake by the Leafs. I would take him in a Bruins sweater anyday!

Since: Jan 7, 2012
Posted on: February 2, 2012 10:05 am

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

The Leafs had better bust their sorry asses if they want to just make the playoffs. They will only be second at best in their division and that still might not be enough. The whole conference is pretty milquetoast except for the top 4 teams. If Tampa, Ottawa or anyone else has a run, TO could be 9th and out this spring.

Since: May 4, 2007
Posted on: February 1, 2012 11:13 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

How do you explain last year Habfan#1? It doesn't matter, if he plays great the rest of the way and helps the Leafs get to the playoffs then he has earned a payday. If you are correct and he will suck next year, then hopefully that payday is not with Toronto (unless we can get him for a hometown discount)

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: February 1, 2012 8:20 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

Did you even make a point other than trying to mock (very poorly I might add) Hab fans. What do you disagree with? That Grabovski always saves his best games for playing the Habs? Or that he won't keep it up after the ink dries on his new contract? Or that he is small and the Habs had their fill of small players so let him go?
I guess you don't have a point, do you?

Since: Oct 5, 2010
Posted on: February 1, 2012 7:11 pm

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

Man, you hab fans kill me, you could write a story about little miss muffet and you would relate her dismay back to her curds and whey being produced in Ontario and the big bad spider (from Quebec ) putting her in her place, running scared from the all mighty Habitants............please........

......move to Notre both can drown in each others self centered misery....gaggggggg

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