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10 мая 2013 года.
Grabovski chips in more than statistics indicate; Leafs centre called on to play tough minutes against Boston's top line // The Gazette


You can pepper Mikhail Grabovski with question after question, as reporters did for nearly seven minutes on Thursday, but you are not going to come away with much in the way of introspection.

Part of it is a language barrier ("I'm still like don't know English," he said. "Give me easy questions."). Part of it is that the Toronto Maple Leafs forward is careful in what he says and does not say.

For instance, Grabovski will not admit that he was miserable for most of this season while playing a shutdown role that sucked dry his offence and made him question whether a change of scenery might be necessary. Nor will he admit that he is happier to be back playing on the second line with Nikolai Kulemin and James van Riemsdyk in the playoffs.

All he will say is that head coach Randy Carlyle was "probably trying to bring something more for me" during the regular season that resulted in 16 points, and that "I'm learning a lot this year."

If so, he is not the only one. The playoffs have a way of boiling everything down to the bare necessity and exposing players for who they are. In that way, Carlyle has learned more about the team he coaches in these four games against the Boston Bruins than he possibly could during the entire regular season.

Some, like Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and van Riemsdyk, have shown that they are big-game players worthy of their salaries. Others, like captain Dion Phaneuf, defenceman Ryan O'Byrne and young forward Nazem Kadri, are writing a different kind of legacy.

As a team, the Leafs have not looked out of place. They might be lacking a strong presence down the middle and depth on the back end, but they are competing in a series that is not over yet.

"Everything becomes more difficult, but it's not the end of the world," Carlyle said of being down 3-1 to the Bruins in the best-of-seven series. "We've created a lot of things. We've done a lot of things. We've created more than people would have thought we would have been able to. We need more traffic to the net. We need a timely goal. We need more."

The Leafs could use some more out of Grabovski, who is still searching for his first goal and has scored just once in the past 20 games. But while the stats do not show it, he has elevated his game in these playoffs and has been a big reason why Boston's top line of Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand has combined for just one goal in this series.

Grabovski goes into those dirty areas on the ice, takes hits to make plays, and like Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin, has been noticeable on almost every shift. But as the highest-paid forward on the team - he earned $5.5-million this year - he also needs to produce more offensively if the Leafs are going to force a Game 6 with a win on Friday.

"Maybe a little bit frustrated, but it's hockey," Grabovski said of his lack of production. "It's my first playoffs. I'm just excited to play and enjoy my time."

Grabovski, who along with Kulemin are the longest-tenured players on the team, had been waiting five long years to play in the post-season. To stay focused during the playoffs, he temporarily moved out of his home and into a hotel near the Air Canada Centre.

"It's different hockey, different life," said Grabovski. "When you play, you feel like maybe this will be your last chance to play in the playoffs.

For Grabovski, the result could very well determine his future. As part of the conditions of his contract, Grabovski must present the Leafs with a list of 10 teams on June 1 that he would be willing to be traded to in the off-season.

That number could easily extend to 29 based on the year he had under Carlyle, but if Grabovski is sour he is not showing it. "Think about tomorrow," he said. "Don't think about my future. I worry about tomorrow. I don't know what's happening after tomorrow."

Страничка Михаила Грабовского на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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