When Leafs GM Brian Burke was hired, he vowed his squad would have more pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence.
Simply put, he wanted a hard-nosed, tougher, grittier team.
Despite a 4-3 overtime loss Thursday, the Leafs, by Merriam-Webster definition, were as advertised.
Pugnacity (Having a quarrelsome or combative nature).
Even the Leafs skilled players are buying into Burke’s game plan. The team’s first goal of the game was the result of a hard forecheck by Mikhail Grabovski and Niklas Hagman, finished off by Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Later, a tenacious power play led to Montreal going two men down. Continued pressure with the man advantage resulted in the Leafs second goal of the evening, from Matt Stajan.
Later, Stajan’s second goal came when the Leafs forwards refused to give up on the loose puck around Habs goalie Carey Price.
Through the second period, the Leafs had a 30-13 shot advantage, with the game finishing off with Toronto outshooting Montreal 46-27.
Testosterone (Qualities of brawn and aggressiveness usually associated with males).
Under two minutes into the contest, Orr dropped the gloves with Montreal tough guy Georges Laraque. The decision went to Laraque, but the first statement of the Leafs new era was made: We won’t be pushed around anymore.
At the midway point of the period, the second bout of the night took place as Rosehill dominated Travis Moen.
Truculent (Displaying ferocity; scathingly harsh; aggressively self-assertive).
Komisarek, an ex-Canadien, didn’t hesitate in taking a number of runs at his former teammates.
Similarly, the hard-hitting Exelby took his first run at the opposition just five minutes into the game.
Belligerence (Waging war; inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness).
After being run over by Moen, even Toskala was throwing punches at his attacker, landing three good shots from behind, while Komisarek took care of business on the front end.
The game finished with three fights, two line scrums and a number of body-jarring hits, much to the delight of the Leafs faithful who had the building buzzing throughout the game.
Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner segment on the CBC highlighted the Leafs lack of toughness last season and how 18-year-old Luke Schenn had to stick up for himself, while his teammates were repeatedly steam-rolled in games against rivals like Ottawa and Montreal.
Under the new regime, it’s hoped this won’t happen anymore.