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Rookies Tarasenko, Brunner score spectacular goals

By Allan Muir

I was up in the press box the night highly touted Stars prospect Fabian Brunnstrom scored a hat trick in his NHL debut, so I've learned first-hand the importance of tempering enthusiasm about a young player after a big game or two.

But geez, these kids are making it hard.

Take Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis' 2010 first rounder who followed up a two-goal debut against Detroit on Saturday with a three-pointer Monday in Nashville. He got the Blues on the board just 1:18 after Colin Wilson had given the Preds a first-period lead with the type of goal that says it all about his hockey sense. Check out the video below to see him maximize his time and space by waltzing in, using Scott Hannan as a partial screen, then unloading a laser to beat Pekka Rinne.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sbdBqsS4WRQ

A goal like that will move a lot of sweaters at the merchandise shop at Scottrade Center, but in just two games he's hinted at the ability to do so many other things that will help this team win games. He's unselfish, he keeps his feet moving and he's fearless, driving the net at any opportunity. And he's got a bit of moxie, as he proved by flattening Shea Weber in retaliation after Nashville's man mountain had laid out Alex Steen.

Then, there was this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZo-BunQpA4

I don't know how many highlight shows there are in Switzerland, but Pierre McGuire is right: this goal that clinched a 4-3 shootout win over Columbus for Detroit by Damien Brunner will be on all of 'em.

Interesting that Detroit coach Mike Babcock revealed during an in-game interview on NBC SportsNet that he was trying to avoid overcoaching Brunner as the rookie winger makes the adjustment from the Swiss League to the NHL. They're not trying to make him fit a mold, and they're not trying to burden him with too many responsibilities early. In other words, they're letting Brunner be Brunner.

That's a crafty move from one of the game's sharpest minds. It'll be a process for the 26-year-old, but Babcock understands that if that's the kind of nasty stuff he brings, a little patience could go a long way.

Then there's Mike Kostka. No highlights for him, because that's not what the Toronto blueliner is about. But two games into his late-in-life rookie season, the 27-year-old has earned 50 minutes of ice--more than any other rookie--playing a solid if unspectacular brand of defense for a Leafs team that desperately needs a stabilizing influence on the back end. Randy Carlyle put him out there, wearing that training camp number (53), in every situation in tonight's 2-1 loss to the Sabres and he handled it with the aplomb of a vet. He even kept his two-game point streak alive with an assist on Nazem Kadri's shutout-busting power play goal late in the third.

You never know with a guy like this -- a couple rough games and he could be back riding in the iron lung -- but for Leafs fans this local kid is an easy guy to root for.

- Allan Muir

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