If Dion Phaneuf wanted to impress any doubters at the Air Canada Centre during his Maple Leafs debut, he certainly knew what he had to do. With less than seven minutes gone in the first period of Tuesday night’s match against the Devils, the brand new Leaf had already landed two checks and won his first fight (against Devil D Colin White) during his fourth shift of the game. His enthusiasm, coupled together with the steadiness that J.S. Giguere gave them in net tonight, really boosted the confidence of the entire team.
Phaneuf had an outstanding night and his stats show that: 24:21 minutes playing time, 4 shots, 6 hits and a +1 rating made him the second star of the game. Of course, the first star honour went to the other new name in town, goaltender J.S. Giguere, who was named first star after getting a shut out in his Maple Leafs debut. Giguere was ultra cool in the Leafs net, turning away 30 shots in total and making steady, calculated moves – the kind that only come with years of experience playing in the NHL. The shut out was Giguere’s 33rd of his NHL career. He is the first Maple Leaf to get a shut out in his Leafs debut since Ed Belfour in ’02.
The Leafs played it simple, the defense kept everything in front of them and did not give up a lot of scoring chances. They stood the Devils up and made them look below average at best. Devils goaltender Yann Danis, making a rare appearance while Martin Brodeur was given the night off, played decent enough with 23 saves, but just didn’t have the kind of support that he needed from his own team. The Leafs easily could have had another three goals.
There was a few tense minutes towards the end of the third period when J.S. Giguere was having quite obvious mask trouble. A strap came loose after taking a shot of his helmet and despite trying to flag down the ref to stop play, he had to continue with his mask riding up for more than two minutes. Thankfully it didn’t affect his play too much, as he managed to keep his cool until a whistle finally came and he could fix the strap.
Another highlight was the great second fight that broke out in the first period. The Leafs’ Jay Rosehill and the Devils’ Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond fought for nearly two minutes, with Leblond at one point waving away the linesman that wanted to break up the fight. It was a heavyweight brawl that saw the two bruisers throwing haymakers for much of their extended tilt.