Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nikolai "Difference Maker" Kulemin

A couple of mornings ago I awoke to discover more then 200 new comments scattered throughout my blog, all of them from a Chinese porn robot. So, while doing some house cleaning and deleting them all one by one, I stumbled upon a post I'd written a year and a half ago which I thought was worth revisiting.

Time will tell, I guess, but if he continues to hit the back of the net with regularity during the shoot-out, or actually during the "game" part of the game, then he might be making a huge difference after all - the difference between winning and losing. As a Leaf fan, that's all the difference in the world.

Hey, wow! Look at that, I've got a theme going. Maybe I'll make it a series. Did you know that Kulemin was my favourite NHL player after just his 3rd NHL game? Ya, me neither, but that's what I wrote. There's also a funny joke in that post about how I thought Jari Kurri was my father. Some day I'll do a post about that. But today's post is about Nikolai Kulemin, my new favourite NHL player again, not counting Kaberle.

"He's probably our most complete player now. He's everything you want in a hockey player."

Wilson's assessment mirrors my own in this situation, a rare occurrence lately. One of the few real reasons for joy this season has been the pleasure of watching Kulemin's game blossom and bloom. While, at the time, I really wondered about the coach's decision to sit Kulemin as a healthy scratch through 4 of the first 8 games, it's clear now that one of Wilson's few significant achievements this season is the management and development of Kulemin's skills, from a raw sophomore talent, to the potent, confident, first line player he is today.

"He was crawling, then walking, now he's running."

Pretty soon he'll want to borrow the car.

Well, since the loss in our last game against Florida was kind of a downer and it's much more fun feeling hopeful and optimistic, let's all enjoy a video tribute of a Maple Leaf that I hope will be with the team for many years to come.

First up; Nikolai Kulemin's first NHL goal. The first player to score a goal while making his NHL debut in a season-opener against the defending Stanley Cup champs since Eric Lindros in 1992. For whatever that's worth.

Next; his 2nd-ever NHL goal, a beauty back-hander against St. Louis.

Here's a great goal from earlier this season, January 12, during a 4-2 loss against Carolina, a second period goal assisted by Bozak and Kessel.

The very next game, January 14th, another 2nd period goal, again assisted by Kessel. The Leafs take this game 4-0, and it's at about this time perhaps that a Maple Leafs puzzle begins to take shape without a Stajan, or a Hagman, a Poni, or Stempniak.

Another goal against the Flyers in January, this one 8 days earlier on the 6th, a 3rd period goal during a 6-2 defeat that began a 4-game losing streak that would end the next time the Leafs played Philadelphia. Check out how much Kulemin resembles Kessel on this play:

In this month alone, Kuelmin has scored 3 times in the shoot-out; March 6th, a 2-1 win against Ottawa, on the 18th, a 2-1 win over New Jersey, and the next game, March the 20th, a 3-2 win over Montreal. Here's a sample, from last season, of what Kulemin can do as an extra-point sniper:

He's also scored an overtime goal this month, Toronto's long-awaited first overtime goal of the year, giving the Leafs a 4-3 victory over Boston on the 9th. This was followed up the very next game, March 11th, with Phil Kessel scoring in OT to give the Leafs a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay for their second consecutive overtime win. In all, that's 2 overtimes and 3 shoot outs - 5 extra points, 5 wins and not losses, that Kulemin and his linemates have captured for the Leafs, just this month.
So cheers to Nikolai Kulemin, who's making a huge difference to my enjoyment of the second half of this Titanic-like season. The last video, despite misspelling "diffrence" is actually pretty good with the music. They should make another updated version with all of his shoot-out and overtime and highlight reel goals with the same music. Or somebody else should. Or maybe I should learn how to do it and do it myself.


Junior said...

Nikolai Kulemin is the best news of the year. He is everything you want in a hockey player; I think he's the strawvthat stirs the Kessel/T Bo/Kulie drink. Nicely done.

general borschevsky said...

Thanks, Junior. That line has been terrific lately.

bkblades said...

That last video was pretty infamous in that everybody used those highlights and predicted huge things for Kulemin. It was almost unfair to Kulemin because people were expecting him to score 20+ goals almost immediately. I'm really glad that Kulemin is starting to really find his scoring touch after finding his niche on the Leafs. Just as Kulemin was guilty of being unsure of himself, I think the Leafs were just as bad, if not worse, for confusing the heck out of him. Management simply had no idea how to play Kulemin and I was concerned they might just banish him to a checking role.

You're right in that his progression has been one of the few bright spots of this season. Personally, I'm actually glad that my love from Kulemin from years past is starting to be justified. I would have looked quite crazy. Or at least more so.

general borschevsky said...

I fell for Kulemin early but then he sort of drifted into the background for a while. I still had high hopes for him at the start of this season and was dismayed when Wilson scratched Kulemin for the first couple games. His first game this year was against Ottawa, a game I went to, and in the BoOBbB I named him the 2nd star.

Hope he likes the spotlight 'cause he's in it now. Thanks for dropping by, bk!