Monday, October 31, 2005
It was 5-0 at that point, and I was pretty much rolling on the floor by the time they punched in the last three.
There's plenty more where that came from, Leaf Nation -- just be thankful we're just closing out October and you're not in a late April scrap with the Islanders for the last playoff spot in the east. May Saturday's arse-whooping haunt you for the rest of the season.
The Leafs should be well rested for this one since they technically haven't played a game since Thursday against Boston. They did show up for an optional skate on Saturday night but really didn't break much of a sweat.
Belfour has only played half a game since Tuesday so he should be fresh as a daisy.
This will be the homecoming of Gary and Joe and look for both of them to play with some fire in their bellies. The big obstacle is of course in goal with Florida's phenomenal Roberto Luongo one of the best in the game right now.
The Leafs are nursing a number of injuries right now and will be without Sundin, Andropov, Berg, and Czerkawki and possibly some others.
Florida and the Leafs have very similar records with the Panthers being one point ahead of the Leafs in the conference standings. Their goals for and against totals look wildly different until you subtract the two Leaf lopsided outings (Atlanta and Ottawa) then they look almost identical as well.
This will be a very interesting match-up as many will see it as an old vs new battle from a Leafs perspective.
More importantly however is how the Leafs will respond. Not just to the debacle that was Saturday night but to the past week in general. The Leafs have looked poor even in some of the games they have won. In fact they looked better in the first three games of the season when they were 0-3 than they have looked over the past half dozen or so when they have been 3-3 (roughly).
It might be time for Quinn to re-adjust his lines somewhat as the Allison-Tucker-O'Neil line has been dreadful in their own end. Also Lindros has been somewhat invisible over the past few games. A good shake up might give all these guys some incentive to play better. Steen is one of the most responsible defensive players they have right now. Perhaps he moves to the #2 line?
Just a thought.
And just to prove that I don't always disagree with Damian Cox here is a link to his column in today's Star which I pretty much agree with. At least more than I ever have with him in the past.
UPDATE: Link to Cox's column now fixed.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Eight - nothing.
VIII - 0
By the way, does anyone have a picture of Domi's face after meeting up with McGratton?
I didn't see this part on HNIC - from Hockey Country:
Don Cherry made a comment after the game about being disappointed that no other Leafs went at McGrattan, but I truly think they were so shocked they didn’t know how to respond. And who would’ve? Wade Belak already had a broken nose. Nathan Perrott has never been a true heavyweight. Who? Eric Lindros?These are not the Leafs of a few years ago. Perrott, by the way, was -4 in about 10 minutes of icetime.
Oh, and the entire Ottawa region breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out that Tucker was going to be okay. We love the guy - we really do.
Philly is in town tonight. This one is a good candidate for a letdown game - hopefully the home crowd, excited about last nights win, will get the team into the game quickly.
Excuse me Mr. Cherry!? Joe Thornton was drafted first overall in 1997. How could the Leafs have taken him? They didn't even have a 1st or 2nd round pick.
Jason Spezza was drafted 2nd overall in 2001. The Leafs did not pick until 17 and took Toronto boy Carlo Colaiacovo.
Eric Staal was taken 2nd overall in 2003 and Corey Perry 28th. The Leafs did not have a pick until 57th - where they took American John Doherty.
Let's look at the last several years for the Leafs.
2005 - Tuuka Rusk - G, 21st. Can anybody dispute that the Leafs will need a goaltender. Finish or otherwise
2004 - No pick until the 3rd Round. They took Canadian Goalie Justin Pogge.
2003 - No pick until the 2nd Round. They took American Defenseman John Doherty.
2002 - 24th pick, Alex Steen. Can you find a better Canadian taken after him? Maybe Matt Stajan taken 57th by the Leafs.
2001 - 17th pick, Carlo Coloaiacovo - sure he hasn't made it (yet) but the only other option would have been Jeff Woywitka - it was a pretty slim draft.
2000 - 24th pick, Mississauga resident, Brad Boyes.
How far back do you want to go? Was there a Canadian better than Luca Cereda taken 24th overall in 1999? Not really - unless you go with Mike Commodore - another year of bad depth in the draft.
You have to go all the way back to 1999 for the Cherry to have a point. The Leafs took Nikolai Antropov at 10 instead of Alex Tanguay or Simon Gagne - oh wait, they're from Quebec, Cherry probably wouldn't count them.
Furthermore, the Leafs dressed two, TWO, European forwards last night. Alex Steen and Alexei Ponikarovsky (a 4th Rd pick by the way). And they dressed three Europeans of defense, Tomas Kaberle (a brilliant 8th Rd pick), Alexander Khavanov and Staffan Kronwall (looking to be a brilliant 9th Rd pick). Let it be said that the all-star Canadian Wade Belak was solidly in the line-up.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
GP G A P
Moligny 9 4 4 8
Nieuwendyk 7 1 2 3
Roberts 6 0 0 0
Lindros 10 8 3 11
Allison 10 2 8 10
O'Neill 8 4 4 8
Yeah, I will take the 29 points (or a point a game) versus 11 points (1/2 a point a game) any year.
Detroit: (1) 120.7, (1) 17
Toronto: (3) 114.1, (2) 11
Minnesota: (2) 120.3, (3) 10
Colorado: (4) 112.1 (4) 6
Ottawa: (6) 108.1 (5) 6
Trust me, it is the same for the ones at the bottom. However, notice one thing. An aggregate score of 100 gets you no where - it is now distinctly middle of the pack. To have truly good special teams your PP% + PK% needs to be above 105. We will see if this holds at the total number of power plays goes down as the season moves on.
Consequently the Leafs will turn in an impressive shot clock performance and lose - standing all logic on it's head.
So it was last night as the Leafs threw 37 shots at the Bruins backup goalie and could only manage a single goal.
Hannu Toivonen (got him in the pool?) looked fabulous and one has to like the Bruin's depth in goal going forward. If this kid plays like he did last night they are in an excellent position come next year should Raycroft (who I think is a free agent next year) bolt to another club.
Lindros had another third period goal (he seems to only score in this period) but didn't seem as visible as he has for most games this season. In fact during the first period I thought he wasn't playing.
The Stajan-Steen-Ponikarovsky was the Leafs best unit last night and Czerkawski had his best game of the season. And by that I mean he looked like an NHL player, not some beer league floater.
Special merit should go to Leafs play-by-play man Joe Bowen who with 2 minutes to go mentioned the word shutout immediately resulting in a Leaf goal to ruin Toivonen's stellar performance to that point.
Ottawa tomorrow night - bring it on!
Thursday, October 27, 2005
The way things are going for McCabe, he might be rubbing elbows with some of the greats of the game by the end of the 2005-06 season.Riiiiiiiight. Oh, and Jason Allison is on pace to end up with a -63 plus/minus rating - a Leaf record too?
Should he not let up in point production, a 136-point season by McCabe would be three fewer than Bobby Orr posted in 1970-71 and two less than Paul Coffey's career high in 1985-86.
So the conclusion - not all Toronto writers are anti-Leaf - they are just all idiots from living in the stink hole that is Toronto? That was a little crude - sorry. Related to that though, there was a winner of the 6/49 draw last night from Ottawa as well but when he heard he had to go to Toronto to claim the winnings he decided against it.
The Leafs have won twice on the second game of a back-to-back so it is no longer a lock that the team who is rested beats the team who has played twice in 48 hours. But at least they will be facing either the B's backup goalie or a tired Andrew Raycroft.
Meantime the rumours continue to fly around a trade with Washington for Witt. Apparently the Islanders are in conversation with the Leafs regarding defenseman Janne Niinimaa who has become a target for the boo-birds on the Island. As a side not check out the Islanders website for their team section - isn't that priceless?
Additionally JFJ is apparently trying to move Wade Belak. But who would want him? Unless someone has a need for a rugged forward? 'Cause no one is going to take him as a defenseman.
Well, maybe Pittsburgh.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
After putting the cruise control on after the 2-0 lead and then finding themselves down in the third, the Sens put the machine back into gear and peppered Gerber with 24 shots in the final frame. They couldn't get one by him though and "the dream of the undefeated season" is over - thanks for that Bruce.
Making the night worse, the Leafs finally won a shootout and picked up two points. Looking for something to cheer me up, I find this....
1. A loss to Carolina might help them beat out Toronto for the last playoff spot come springtime.
UPDATE: Mirlte's take on the Canes - hint - he predicted them to make the playoffs.
2. Damien Cox this morning:
Most conveniently for the Leafs, meanwhile, the "new" NHL also allows you to play really, really lousy and win.
The Leafs followed up a solid first period by allowing 44 shots in the succeeding 45 minutes of play. They took the final six penalties of the night, playing 7:22 of the final 10:10 shorthanded, and every single call was a good one.
I mean, Ken Klee, c'mon. You hook a guy under the arms on a clear breakaway, you're lucky to get only a minor. Egging the fans on by pretending you did nothing wrong won't make the referees your friend.
Along the way the Leafs also blew their 13th lead of the season in only their ninth game and saw Belfour allow two awful goals.
That feels better.
Ok JFJ is working the phones hard and he wants a defencemen badly.
He is still talking to Washington, St. Louis and Colorado. Here's the break down:
Witt would cost Antropov and a pick, but that is to high of a price for Witt, go check out his stats he isn't very good. (L4)
Jackman would cost Colaiacovo and Stajan, the scary thing here is that JFJ is considering it. (L3) Talks have gotten more serious!
Sauer would cost a second rounder, only problem is he isn't worth that and then the dollars don't add up. (L2)
JFJ is trying really hard to get ridof Czerkawski and Belak, he is willing to stick with Berg a little longer, but many feel that, that is a Quinn decision and not JFJ. There are no takers for either player at this moment... what does that tell you?
And later on in the same discussion thread:
New info just came past me right this minute. JFJ has called a conference call with both Caps and Blues GM about the possibilityof a three way deal. ...
... This is unconfirmed at the moment, but the three way deal that JFJ is hoping for might look like this, again unconfirmed!
To Toronto: Witt
To St. Louis: 2nd Rounder (Tor) Washington top prospect, 4th Rounder (Was)
Where to begin with this one? At least it didn’t resemble anything like that stinking pile left on the ice Saturday night disguised as a hockey game.
This one featured skating from both sides and some pretty wide open and entertaining hockey. In fact it was a highly entertaining affair.
It also featured a number of brain cramps from the Leafs most notably Eddie Belfour wandering out to claim a puck in the new restricted area and then realizing where he was. This allowed the Bruins to score but Eddie wasn’t 100% to blame. At least two other Leafs stood by and allowed this to happen.
As fans we know that these guys are human and make mistakes, we know they aren’t going to play perfectly each time out however what we do want to see are players that get “plumb maddog mean” (to quote Clint Eastwood in Josie Wales) afterwards and elevate their game to a new level.
Belfour certainly did that last night and while he was directly responsible for two of the Bruins goals in regulation time he played like a man possessed in the final minutes of the game (when the Leafs were two men short) and into the overtime where he was the big reason the Bruins didn’t score on a long (four minute) powerplay. Actually he was the only reason they didn’t score.
Alexander Khavanov also made up for his brain cramp that caused another of the Bruin’s goals by scoring on the power play on a lovely feed from Kyle Wellwood. Who managed to get a point despite only playing for 6 minutes.
And Alexei Ponikarovsky of all people scored a shorthanded goal from Matt Stajan. In fact the Leafs sometimes looked just as dangerous shorthanded as they did at full strength.
You could say this game was a battle of the special teams. The Leafs went 2-4 on the powerplay; while the Bruins were 0-10. The Leafs penalty killers not only killed off all penalties but scored a short handed goal as well. The Bruins penalty killers didn’t look so good. And that newest of special teams – the shoot out participants sealed the extra point for the Buds. Once again Belfour figured huge turning away all the Bruins shooters while the Leafs only needed a goal from Lindros (who had an assist as well last night) to win the skills competition.
For the record I am still not a shootout fan – I watched it of course but it is more like an ordeal to be endured rather than an exciting end to a game. I would much prefer another five minutes of overtime.
Also how nice is it to look at the standings this morning and see the Leafs and Senators tied. Looking forward to extending your losing streak on Saturday Sens fans.
One more thing, McCabe’s goal last night ties him with Jagr for the scoring lead. How sweet it is!
Monday, October 24, 2005
on Hockey Night in Canada in Toronto....
THE BATTLE OF ONTARIO RESUMES!!!
"I think (McCabe) can win the Norris Trophy and he's the best player I've played with in my career as a partner," Leetch told the Star. "I was hoping that I would be able to play with him and help him gain that distinction and have a small part in it, but he obviously didn't need me because he's on his way anyway."
Hat-tip to Hockey Hearsay.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
What can you say about this excuse for a hockey game. Neither team looked particularly interested in winning until the third period when the Flyers bounced a few in off legs, arms, and butts and walked away with two points.
I missed most of the first period but if it was as bad as the second I am glad I wasn't subjected to it.
Leafs fans are used to seeing games like this every so often. They seemed to always happen in a situation where a cellar dweller (like Washington or Atlanta) were in town and the Leafs seemed to have no interest in playing the game.
So it was in this one the team looked unanimously uninterested and sluggish. This wasn't much different than the game on Thursday but they skated enough in that one to pull out a win in OT. There was precious little skating done in last nights match however Quinn will no doubt be secretly happy with the outcome.
Why? Because he was complaining last week that the team was too cocky and not sharp in practice. Well now he has something to beat them over the head with as Boston is on tap for a home and home this coming week.
Officiating in last nights game was inconsistent to say the least. The great thing about the new crackdown during exhibition was the absolute guarantee that interference away from the play would be called. Now they seem to be calling interference right on the puck. If you have the puck and pass it too someone and then get hit - interference. This is taking the hitting out of the game.
Don Cherry was complaining about the penalties as well but I don't agree with him that cross checking in front of the net should be allowed.
And let's not forget that brutal call that took a Leaf goal away early in period two. Based on the final score it would not have affected the outcome but it just might have created some momentum.
Ultimately though it wasn't the refs that decided this contest. If you allow a short handed goal when you have a two man advantage you should forfeit the game right then and there.
BTW did Wellwood play last night? I didn't hear his name once.
After the Leaf game I thought I would catch a little of the Canucks - Avalanche tilt what with the whole Bertuzzi thing and all. However much to my chagrin Jim Hughson is dong the play by play.
Boy I feel bad for you viewers in the west. After years of suffering through Chris Cuthbert's high pitched screech now you get a guy who calls hockey as if it was a baseball game: slow and ponderous.
Please don't tell me he will be the one tagged to replace Bob Cole. Cause I would seriously think about switching to basketball.
Friday, October 21, 2005
This is a raw unedited post - I haven't had time to pretty it up so I apologize if it is disjointed.
This game had a rather languid feel to it. Funny how these two teams met in the playoffs a few years ago but there doesn’t seem to be much lingering intensity.
Staal did something very few players have done this year: steal the puck from Jason Allison. Setting up the first Carolina goal.
Penalties started to add up for the Leafs in period two allowing Carolina to creep back into the game after the Buds jumped out in to a 2-0 lead. Proving once again that no lead is safe in the new NHL.
The game settled down somewhat after that with teams trading chances. One featured Tomas Kaberle making an amazing defensive play to bail out Eddy Belfour when he over committed on a poke check and found himself waaay out of position. Eddie was also bailed out by the goal post on two occasions and a short handed goal by Stajan didn’t hurt either.
Lindros didn’t look particularly sharp for the first two periods reminding me more of the slow footed out of shape player we saw in the pre-season.
Then suddenly in the third period Domi storms into the ‘canes zone; drops to Kilger who circles the net and passes to the Big E who wires one into the back of the net. Hey you can be a slow as you want as long as you are in the right place when the puck comes to you.
Rumours have been circulating lately of a feud between Quinn and GM John Ferguson Junior. Whispers say that Quinn has been protective of Aki Berg whom JFJ wants to move out of town as soon as someone is willing to give him anything for him. Quinn supposedly because he was the one who traded for Berg is fiercely loyal to him.
Well I don’t know if this is true or not but Quinn had Berg playing on the penalty kill last night. Which means that Berg is better than all of us think or Quinn is a much bigger risk taker than I gave him credit for. Or, maybe he is being showcased for a trade?
Once again the Leafs had a lead late in the game and once again it frittered away. Then a penalty late in the game for too many man in the ice which carried over into the overtime and made for some drama.
The Leafs coughed up two goal leads twice in this game and looked somewhat listless. Four days off is an eternity during the hockey season and the Buds sure looked dopey.
They woke up during the overtime and once they killed off a Carolina powerplay they took the play to the Caines . Maybe because they didn’t want to face another shootout. I know I didn’t.
And then Klee the unlikely hero after Brind’amour flubs a breakaway.
Leafs win their fourth straight but Carolina deserved a better fate. They played very well and generally gave the Leafs fits in their own end all night.
There were a lot of penalties on both sides that weren’t called in this game and it seems that the interference away from the play is creeping back in. As is the crosschecking in front of the net. I have said before that I hope this wouldn’t continue (this was after the Leafs-Flyers game) but I guess it is too much to hope for.
The Flyers are back in town on Saturday night to try and end the winning streak that started when the Leafs beat them 4-2 9 days ago.
After last week’s dizzying highs when the Leafs power play and point productin skyrocketed based on one game against Atlanta the team came back to earth a bit this night going 1-5.
Allison and O’Neil were held pointless and were –1.
Lindros now has 6 goals in 7 games. If he keeps up this pace he will replace the scoring production lost with the departure of Nolan, Nieuwendyk, Roberts and Mogilny all by himself.
Czerkawski played tonight as Nik Antropov was too banged up to play. Mariuz didn’t score but actually did something unexpected: back checked and at one point broke up a possible scoring chance. That’s one way to get back in Quinn’s good books.
From the rumour mill:
The Leafs are talking to the Blues regarding both Brewer and Jackman. People I've spoke tell me the conversations lean towards Jackman more than Brewer.
The Leafs have stopped talking to Nashville for the time being in regards to obtaining Scott Walker. The Leafs are still speaking with the Caps about Witt, and it seems like the talks are positive.
The Leafs also had scouts at the Rangers and Islanders game, and I was told that both Poti and Niinimaa were the main players being scouted. There were also scouts from the Sharks, Wild and Habs at the game.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
That was Kenny Hitchcock on the Sens' now notorious (for all the wrong reasons) winger Marty Havlat. The context was the record-setting donnybrook that broke out late last season (pre-Bertuzzi/Moore era, it should be duly noted).
If Brian McCabe is originator and master of the Can Opener, then Marty Havlat has patent dibs on the Meat Cleaver. A pretty damn shameful move that shouldn't have happened once let alone repeated. If you're looking for Havlat apologies, you'll not find them here -- that's what they pay Don Brennan for. Havlat has now "earned" his rep as a dirty player, much to the delight of opponents whose taunts can now rise above mere gamesmanship.
The NHL's division of labour should see to it that guys like Havlat skate like a demon and score loads of goals while guys like Chris Neil are available to police the treatment of their star players. Neil did immediately intervene, earning 17 penalty minutes (including instigating, of course) for his efforts. Havlat is simply too fast and too skilled a player to be scraping the gutter with package-boots.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Remember if you will the "free agent frenzy" that occurred this year once the NHL lockout came to a close. Teams rushed to scoop up the oodles of unsigned talent out there and some players landed in the most unlikely places. So you had long time Colorado defenseman Adam Foote moving to Columbus, Devils defensive stalwart Scott Niedermayer departed as the Ducks spent every dime to get him to Anaheim (apologies to the Vandals for that one), Pronger to Edmonton, Hamrlik to Calgary, Forsberg to Philadelphia etc, etc,.
In the meantime those who have the pleasure of reading the Toronto papers were being told that things weren't going that well. For one thing John Ferguson Junior was missing out on all those great players (one wag suggested that McCabe Kaberle and Klee should have been bought out to make cap room. I guess a defense core where Aki Berg was suddenly number two on the depth chart didn't scare that fellow). And he let Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Bryan Leetch and Alex Mogilny bolt to other teams.
Then to top it off what did Ferguson do? He went out and signed a bunch of brittle has beens. At least he got them cheap and only signed them for a year went the conventional wisdom. So after their careers ended and the Leafs came in last place at least JFJ could get on with rebuilding the team from scratch. Which for some reason or other is something the media in Toronto has been clamoring for since, well since as long as I can remember.
Now, it is very early in the season and Lindros and Allison have barely played a week but one thing has become clear: neither of these gentlemen are past their prime. In fact if they can remain healthy the Leafs go from not just being a strong team with an excellent chance of making the playoffs , but in my opinion one that has an actual chance at the Cup itself. And before you Sens fans start up about your team being the equivalent of the Habs from 76-79 combined with the Red Army team from 1972 and how you are going to go 82-0 this year and sweep your way to the Cup, let me leave you with two words to chew on: Brian Smolinski. Yup when the best you can offer as a second line center is Brian Smolinski you haven't exactly cemented your names on Lord Stanley's mug yet.
Anyway back to more important matters. The play of Lindros and Allison as well as Jeff O'Neil has certainly silenced some of the critics (albeit temporarily) and now we have the sudden rehabilitation of Brian McCabe who has gone from someone who wasn't supposed to be able to compete in the new league because he couldn't use his patented "can opener" technique (which for those who remember was being called as tripping the last time we played) and if he could only be more like that darling Wade Redden just up the road things would be so much better.
Well now people are musing that he could be one of the defenders to patrol the blueline for Canada in Turin in February. To which I say - what a difference one game makes!
I speak of course of the recent 9-1 drubbing of the Thrashers which saw Allison, O'Neil and McCabe vault their stats to the top of the league. You can do that early in the season when a 3-5 point night effectively doubles your totals. McCabe for those who are paying attention however is still at a -1 and he and Kaberle are already logging a monstrous 30 minutes a game. This has led to a continuous spate of rumours that have the Leafs dealing for Witt, Brewer, Keith Carney or some combination of the three.
Which is a very very long way of me saying that it is a long season and it is far too early to tell what might happen. However. If we continue on this trend. If Allison and Lindros continue to play at the level they are playing at now (and as long as they are healthy there is no reason to think they won't) and ditto McCabe the Leafs, JFJ and the fans will be faced with a daunting problem come next summer.
Allison, and Lindros you see are signed to only one year contracts and are free agents once the season ends. In addition Bryan McCabe's contract expires this year as well and he becomes a free agent.
So, with the salary cap restrictions and with the likely raises that these guys would command how likely is it that JFJ would be able to hang on to them? And which one do they hang on to? Allison in his pre injury days was making in the 9 million range. Which means in the new era he could command 6 million. Lindros if he continues to impress could be in the 4-6 million range as well.
McCabe would suddenly as well vault into the 5 million range (and we shouldn’t be surprised that he is playing his brains out in a free agent year) as well.
This could mean that between these players and Sundin the Leafs would be on the hook for about 22 million.
So we are in the midst of an interesting year. Each path is a dangerous one. The Lindros, Allison, O'Neil trio becomes a bust if they fall to injury and the teams fortunes plummet; if they do well we could see any or all of Lindros, Allison and McCabe departing for other teams.
Update: For a perfect example of how the Toronto sports media faces up to the fact that they were dead wrong about something see Steve Simmons' column today in which he attributes the Leafs signing of Lindros as pure dumb luck.
This Damien Cox article seems to suggest that McCabe and, OMG!, the Big E, The Next One, the former man-child, Eric 'don't call me mush-head' Lindros might have to be considered!
On the Sens side: Redden, Phillips, and Heatley were in Kelowna while Spezza will also be under consideration.
So allow me to be just as uncreative, I propose the Tao Line.
OK, first off you have to pronounce it wrong for the letters to work but we can ignore that.
It perfectly captures the balance represented on the line. The grit of Tucker with the finesse of Allison. The playmaking of Allison with the finishing of O'Neill. The corner play of Tucker with the open space play of O'Neill. When Allison controls the puck he slows down the pace of play to a Zen-like state.
They have become like Dancing Wu Li Masters in accepting that your opponents are not the enemy, they are your partners. They have accepted their deaths on the battle field and having lost that fear come out victorious.
Um, maybe not.
Monday, October 17, 2005
I was out on Saturday night (see here) so I only caught the re-broadcast on Leafs TV the next day. Looked to be a pretty good game considering that the Leafs played the night before and didn't get into Mtl till 2 am.
Belfour definitely didn't look tired and made some impressive stops - although he basically handed Montreal their first goal. Once again Lindros carries the team with two goals. Allison also chipped in with the other.
So now the Leafs have 8 out of a possible 12 points over their first 6 games and are a mere two points behind the Sens whom everyone knows will go 82-0 this year. Right?
Funny how this team has lost their best player in Sundin and they haven't missed a beat. When Sundin comes back this team will really be scary to play against.
Speaking of Sundin he has been cleared for light on-ice workouts but probably is a ways from playing yet.
Meanwhile there are some rumours floating around that there is friction between JFJ and Pat Quinn with Quinn "on a short leash" whatever that means. Personally I would not be happy if Quinn was ousted I don't know who in the league would be a better replacement for him. He is easily one of the top 5 coaches in the NHL.
Let's hope this one is one of those bogus rumours that Toronto kicks out every year. Remember last time their was hockey Quinn was supposed to have "lost the dressing room" and was about to be fired? We know how that turned out.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Jason Allison tied for team led in scoring that year with 15 points in 7 games. O'Neill contibuted 6 points to the undefeated team and Darcy Tucker chipped in with 4.
Let's us not forget that Bryan McCabe paced the defense with 12 points. Other team members included Wade Redden (I'll take him) and Ed Jovanovski (and him but Vancouver can keep Dan Cloutier).
Update: Do I really have to mention that the above mentioned Leafs are all on the front page of the top NHL scorers?
Friday, October 14, 2005
Gary who? Joe who? Aleks who?
The last time a Toronto Maple Leaf had a hat-trick it was against the Atlanta Thrashers. The player who scored those three goals was Aleks Mogilny. Mogilny was left to sign with the Devils this year to the chagrin of some Toronto sport’s writers who felt his scoring would be irreplaceable.
Fast forward to tonight where the man brought in to replace Mogilny(Jeff O'Neil) has a hat-trick against the very same Atlanta Thrashers in a 9-1 blowout as the Leafs beat one of those teams that is supposed to have loaded up on talent in the off season while John Ferguson Junior was twiddling his thumbs (that’s if you believe the Toronto sports media).
Jason Allison had another strong game with a Gordie Howe hat-trick. A goal, an assist (actually three) and a fight! That’s right a fight. This game degenerated into an ugly affair in the third period with the Leafs leading 6-1as the Thrashers began gooning it up in spectacular fashion.
This led to a number of fights and a number of expulsions. At the end of the game the Thrashers had 87 penalty minutes compared to Toronto’s 60 and the Leafs scored seven goals on the pp.
The Thrashers have some serious goaltending problems with three of their goalies down with injuries so the Leafs certainly weren’t facing a veteran NHLer tonight. But the Thrashers didn’t exactly help rookie Michael Garnett either.
How weak is the Thrashers defense? Well they don’t even have one play on the power play. That’s right they ice 5 forwards.
And this is a team that the experts picked to make the playoffs over the Leafs?
Oh and Brian McCabe that terrible defenseman who should try to play more like Redden? Only had 5 points tonight and going into the game was the leagues leading defenseman in points and ice time. I think after tonight he is the league leader in points.
Belfour almost had a shut out but gave up a goal in the third period. Which was ok by me because I don’t have him in the blogger pool.
The Marlies also won edging the Cleveland Barons 3-2 I didn’t get to see much of that game because I was watching the Leafs but every time I switched over it seemed that Kronwall was on the ice. I hope this guy is getting lots of ice time cause he definitely has the makings of a solid NHL d-man.
Look for some changes in the lineup for Quinn tomorrow night. Kilger looks to be hurt, Belak might be facing league discipline for actions during the fight and Tucker might not be available after he had his head rammed into the boards byAndy Sutton (who was penalized for attempt to injure)/that could mean Czerkawski and Wozniewski could be in the lineup.
Ordinarily in a back to back situation you might expect Tellqvist to get the start but Belfour had so little work tonight I don’t think you could say that he is tired.
So the Leafs now have to make sure they don't have a let down tomorrow night against the Habs and can grab another vicory. Three in a row would be mighty sweet at this point.
There are currently three divisions in each conference. I propose that the top two teams from each division make the playoffs and that the final two teams are chosen through Wild Cards. You could still have divisional winners guaranteed a top 3 seed to make a divisional win mean something - but I propose slotting in the the second place finishers according to points even if that places them behind a Wild Card.
I could be convinced to go one step further and have 4 divisions with the top 2 finishers in each getting in. Then having to go through the division during the playoffs. Nothing increases a rivalry better than meeting in the playoffs. Well, you actually have to lose to a team in the playoffs to have a rivalry. That is why the Leafs-Sens rivalry is one way right now.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
I think I got my hate back for the Leafs, remembering the whiney, ubiquitous nature of Toronto media and their team. With their loss tonight, I'm certain we'll see a rash of commentary on whether the shootout is "a good way to end the game" the same way we've seen national, roundtable discussions on high sticking or visors the second one of their players gets hurt. Meanwhile, their team sucks.
Hat-tip to Eric McErlain.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
You knew that it was only a matter of time before the Leafs got a result that was deserving of their effort. Harry Neale always says that you lose a few games that you deserved to win on the way out of a slump. I don’t know that the leafs actually started the season in a slump but they have deserved better than 4 points in 4 games.
The biggest surprise last night was seeing Mikael Tellqvist in net. Not that it didn’t make sense to have the backup start on the second night of back-to-back games. I just cringed thinking of what the Flyers would do to this kid.
But when the dust had cleared there was Tellqvist skating out to accept the honour of first star for his gritty performance stoning the Flyers on 30 of 32 shots.
So who would have figured that Telly would have had a victory before Belfour this year?
And he may get the start in Atlanta on Friday what with the Leafs playing another back to back set as they face the Habs on Saturday.
I am not so worried as I was about this guy.
The Lindros machine keeps on chugging. Eric was a presence once again last night, he scored a very timely goal and once again was the leader of the team. I discounted the Lindros signing this summer believing that Allison and O’Neil were much more impactful additions. However 1.5 million for this guy is starting to look like a huge bargain. And I don’t think he is even close to game shape yet. I think he could drop another 5 –10 pounds! Seriously.
Allison on the other hand doesn’t look 100%. I am thinking that hip-pointer injury is not fully healed. That being said he played a great game last night and had two points.
Tucker was a threat during the entire affair an played his best hockey of the season.
And what can you say about Jeff O’Neil coming back from a shoulder injury to score a huge goal.
Wellwood chips in as well with his first NHL goal of his career and looked dangerous all night. There’s no way we can send this guy back to the AHL when Mats comes back.
Steen and Stajan – how big an endorsement is it of these guys that Quinn lets them play together on the penalty kill? And they are a short-handed threat to score continually.
Speaking of endorsements in the final minute of play with the Flyer goalie on the bench who is on the ice for the Leafs on defense?
Boy, Pat Quinn is loyal to a fault. But hey if you want this guy's confidence to come back I guess this is what you have to do. Berg was paired with Khavanov last night and is seemed to have an effect – on Khavanov that is. I believe he was on the ice for both Flyer goals.
Chad Kilger. Where did this guy come from. And who knew he was fast? I never thought that a Kilger-Lindros-Domi line would be considered a threat but they sure were all last night.
McCabe and Kaberle logged their usual marathon with McCabe chipping in an assist.
Missing in Action: Alexei Ponikarovsky and Mariusz Czerkawski. Mariusz had an excuse however – he was benched.
One thing that was disappointing last night was the amount of hooking and holding being done away from the puck. This is a little early for the refs to be putting the whistles away. I hope this is a blip not a trend.
Thrashers are next up on Friday and they should be plenty mad having been blanked by the Habs tonight.
The Marlies are playing the Blue Jackets farm team tonight (Syracuse Crunch) and are currently leading 4-2. I won’t have time to put a re-cap up tomorrow however.
And hey are the Sports Media starting to read this blog? Probably not but on Tuesday I posted a recap on the Sens-Leafs game that included this:
Ottawa fans: your team is built for the shootout. Problem is there is no shootout in the playoffs. And what's with letting a team who isn't supposed to make the playoffs and who is missing their best player (Sundin) and their best natural scorer (O'Neil) come into your home rink and steal a point?
My advice? Don't plan the parade route yet.
Then I notice that Don Brennan had this to say in the Ottawa Sun
A word of caution to all those picking the Senators to cruise their way to a Stanley Cup championship: The Leafs, a consensus pick not to make the playoffs, are still going to be a major stumbling block for your team. Last night, they were without their captain (Mats Sundin, who also missed most of the first meeting) and most dangerous sniper (Jeff O'Neill), and the Sens still couldn't put them away in regulation time? Just sayin', objects in the rear-view mirror are often closer than they appear.
Hey great minds think alike right?
WEEK 1 IN MAPLEVILLEDated on the day it was printed - O'Neill scored the winner last night - but nice.
Already, they've made my head hurt and I don't think it was the wobbly pops. Leafs coach Pat Quinn had his right eye blackened from a puck, then caught a high stick over his left eye that needed stitches. In other words, he has been more involved in the play so far this season than most of his defencemen.
Aki Berg is so far out of position he might as well still be playing in Europe and Wade Belak's most effective move is when he's skating to the bench.
Jason Allison may be as good as John Ferguson Jr. thinks he is but, one-on-one in the shootout, he has shown moves that couldn't fake a beer-league goalie off his barstool.
Against Ottawa, Eric Lindros couldn't hit the net if they'd stuck Bob Clarke's picture in the back of it.
If this keeps up Bryan Marchment will start looking good. The Leafs' best shooters, Mats Sundin and Jeff O'Neill, have been injured. Eddie Belfour has alternated between brilliantly adequate and looking like a man caught on the wrong end of a firing squad.
In other words, new team, new league, new players ... same old story.
Two big games for the Leafs next - Atlanta on Friday and Montreal again on Saturday. Both of these teams are expected to challenge the Leafs, Pittsburgh, and Florida for the final playoff spots.
Are you expecting Tellqvist get the start on Friday with Belfour back in net on Saturday or will Eddie get tested in back-to-back games?
Of course, with the 4-2 win over the previously undefeated Habs, the Sens are perched in their usual spot. Emery got the win with 27 saves and Alfredsson now leads the league in goal scoring with 5. Boston comes to the Corel Centre for Ottawa's next game on Saturday.
UPDATE: Maybe the Leafs were just lucky?
Had it not been for some astonishingly inaccurate shooting by the Flyers, the game quickly would have become a blowout.
The Flyers shot from every angle while the Leafs stood around looking shell-shocked and waiting for rebounds. Unless you're one of those unfortunate people who has to use Pearson Airport, you're never likely to see more white-shirted people standing around doing nothing.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Tonight's Leaf/Flyer tilt is the battle of the basement dwellers. Which team truly is the worst in the Eastern Conference at this point in the season. My money is on Toronto proving that they deserve that distinction.
Leaf fans - do you think the Senators shooters are telling Belfour something when they've shot from 10 feet on every opportunity and scored 3 out of 5 times. Come out of your net a bit Eddie!
A couple of things are becoming apparent in the new NHL. Generally the game is much more exciting. Specifically, in terms of the Leafs and Sens, is that these teams are evenly matched - for 65 minutes anyway.
This is good news for the Leafs but bad news for the Sens. The Senators are the popular pick for Stanley Cup favourite and for good reason. I am loving that Jason Speeza is tearing it up after being freed up from the stifling grip of Jacques Martin. Could I scoring title and Olympic Games be in his future? I hope so. However, even with Spezza and Heatly and Alfredsson and Hasek the Sens can't beat the Leafs in regulation. How could you when snipers like Tucker, Domi and Wilm match you goal for goal.
The other tough sign for Ottawa was 1,000 game day tickets available. It is not clear if they got grabbed up or not, but if there are 1,000 available against the Leafs how many will be left over against less compelling competition. Furthermore the Senators have one of the most exciting teams in the new NHL. If this team can't sell out there are serious problems with the Ottawa market.
But let's not let this be all Sens bashing. Here a couple of notes on the Leafs.
Ed Belfour has not performed to an NHL level. The 5th Senators goal was terrible and completely Eddie's fault. I was on the Allison bandwagon in the pre-season but he just can't skate well enough. Hopefully his will improve a bit as he gets into game shape but so far, not so good. Kyle Wellwood is not a NHL player and it looks like he deserved his Marlie demotion. Once O'Neill is back you can count Wellwood being sent down.
The Leafs are now 0-1-2, but could easily be 3-0-0, as the Sens are now. I'm not worried (yet) but the Leafs are going to need a couple of wins coming up against the Flyers, Thrashers and Canadiens. At least they sellout!
As a hockey fan I have to say this was a fantastic game last night. As a Leaf fan a little disappointing.
If this game proved anything about the “New NHL” it’s that no lead is safe. On different occasions either team looked like they were in control only to have the other storm back and wrest it from them.
The Sens really looked home and cooled out at the beginning of the third period with a 4-2 lead only to have the Leafs score three in less than two minutes to take a 5-4 advantage which the Sens erased sometime later.
From there you just had a sense that OT was looming and as a Leaf fan I was hoping that the Leafs could score in the extra frame rather than go to a shootout where “Drunken Style” Hasek is legendary.
But… Hasek makes a brilliant stop near the end of the game on Tucker to send it to the shootout.
Quinn did something odd to start the third period. He reunited Lindros Domi and Wilm which was the fourth line to start the season. And guess what? They were excellent.
Probably because Domi and Wilm see limited ice time on the power play and they were fresh legs. But it certainly worked.
Czerkawski didn’t seem to play during the third period at all. And that might have something to do with the fact that he wasn’t exactly making his presence felt out there.
Havlat and Heatley played very well for Ottawa. Heatley despite being on the hated Sens is such a throwback of the typical Canadian hockey player physical, strong and with a wicked shot. Like Bob Clarke or Steve Shutt.
Alyson still is not in game shape but there are times when he has the puck he reminds me of Frank Mahovolich.
Quinn did what I would do in the shootout: Let Kyle Wellwood try and he couldn’t get it up on Hasek an we all know the rest of the story.
Ottawa fans: your team is built for the shootout. Problem is there is no shootout in the playoffs. And what's whith letting a team who isn't supposed to make the playoffs and who is missing their best player (Sundin) and their best natural scorer (O'Neil) come into your home rink and steal a point?
My advice? Don't plan the parade route yet. At the start of the season I was hoping that the Leafs and Sens would somehow not meet in the playoffs this year. What with the new improved playoff style Senators.
Now I am not worried in the slightest. The Leafs have shown over 6 periods and two overtime sessions that they can skate with the Sens. In fact they looked dangerous during the entire overtime last night.
And let's face it. Allison is only going to get better and Sundin will not be out for the whole season. Sens fans: be very very afraid. These happy times are going to be shortlived.
Philly is in town tonight in the third game in four nights of a very tough schedule for the Leafs. Tomorrow is the Marlies home opener (which will be carried on Leafs TV) . Boy has there ever been so much hockey on TV? It's just fantastic.
Speaking of Hockey on TV. What's with this "NHL Network"? I have had it on my digital box for well over a year and it has been mostly re-runs of old classic games (which was kind of fun during the lockout). Now TSN (which appears to own the channel) is pimping the thing continually with entreaties for us to sign up because the free period is ending soon.
I suppose it would be an interesting channel to have but who would want to pay for old hockey re-runs? I know what you are saying: But now that hockey is back they will have lots of real games.
Think again. The channel will only broadcast 26 live games this year. How many NHL games are there? Over 1000 I think. Maybe even 1200. And the so called "NHL Network" will bring us a lousy 26? Someone tell me why I want to spend money on this?
Monday, October 10, 2005
What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with the presence of hockey? Not only am I thankful that I live in relative wealth safety and security but I am doubly thankful that hockey has returned.
I didn't get to see the game on Saturday night because of a family function but when I turned on the radio for the drive home the first thing I heard was a Leafs fan bemoaning that Belfour had been left alone for most of the game.
"Uh-Oh" I thought - was this an 8-0 blowout or something? Not quite, for the second game of the season the Leafs carried a lead into the third period but couldn't hold it.
Berg and Belak were -3 that night and apparently looked awful. This has re-stoked the rumors that the Leafs are trying hard to pry Brandon Witt from Washington and are talking to the Bruins about Nik Boynton:
People close to the Leafs say that JFJ was very ticked off last night, and also went on to say that right now, no one is untouchable to land a defensemen.
Interesting. Does that mean that Belfour or Sundin would be traded for a defensemen? I think not. However there have been other rumors circulating that the Leafs have been shopping for a young goalie (Buffalo's Nuronen is one most prominently mentioned). Could Belfour be moved for a defenseman and concurrently a move made for a goalie? How very intriguing.
But perhaps not realistic. My bet is that Berg and Belak stick but might see some time in the press box as Quinn rotates Wozniewski in and out of the line up with the odd appearance by Carlo Colaiacovo.
So tonight Sens fans can take some solace in that conjunction with this early season defense "crisis" Sundin will not play and also that Jeff O'Neil is still out with a bum shoulder.
Sens fan you should not be happy with anything less than a 10-0 score in favour of your hometeam.
Oh and you might want to watch out for this guy named Lindros. He has been moved from the fourth line all the way up to the top spot to replace Sundin. All signs are that this fellow might be a decent player.
On the down side crafty forward Kyle Wellwood has been placed between Domi and Wilm. So to steal a quote from a sports writer from last year "32 knuckles and only one pair of hands between them". Nevertheless Wellwood still managed to turn Domi into a goal scorer on Saturday night.
If I am coach Murray I am going to try to focus on one thing tonight: speed.
On the front line Allison while looking strong on the puck still doesn't look to be in game shape and is visibly slow.
On the back end Belak and Berg don't look ready to adapt to the new NHL and Klee is only in his second game since missing the entire training camp with an injury.
Those are the Achilles heels to be exploited.
Quinn on the other hand can mitigate these by removing either Berg or Belak (or both) from the lineup and by moving Wellwood up further in the depth chart.
Quinn however is notoriously loyal to his player and may very well go with the same line up in order to see if the goats of Saturday rise to the challenge to become heroes tonight.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Rookie Brandon Bochenski, who surrendered his spot to Alfredsson in the third period, will be back with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley for the regular-season opener at the Corel Centre against the Sabres.Originally, Murray had looked to put Havlat and Alfredsson on the wings with Smolinski but Havlat requested a move back to right-wing forcing him and Alfredsson to play on separate lines.
If he's successful in getting Fisher's game to the level where he play with Alfredsson, the team will boast three very powerful lines.
If not, I could see Vermette getting some time with Alfredsson to see if he's able to handle a more prominent role in the lineup.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Missed the opening half of the first period (and Smolinski's goal) thanks to Eastern games that start in the middle of rush hour (Vancouver traffic frigging rules!).
Proudly wore my red Sens jersey to the Marine Way Brew Pub. Sure enough, Leaf Fan is there with his gear on. We exchange pleasantries ("I can't get away from you people") and he was noticeably absent following the game. Plenty of golden "V" jerseys in the house, patiently awaiting the "late" game while displaying a mildly pro-Sens bias (what a difference from the hostile atmosphere of Ottawa's hometown bars).
-Hasek, stick a-flinging, kept the Sens in a game they had no business winning. Always been a fan of the poke-check, myself;
-Chris Neil displayed his impeccable hockey sense by winding up the ACC crowd in the dying minutes. Slow, sarcastic claps to you, Chris.
-Give-it-away, Give-it-away, Give-it-away now: Spezza a little too cute with the puck. Loved #19's Ghost-of-Alexei moves from the side of the net, however.
-Alfie's STFU to the miserable ACC boo-birds: A "hat trick" including two game tying goals and the game winning goal. That had to be the highlight of the night.
-Seriously, who could resist the shootout's Nagano '98 reset? Not me:
Overall, hardly an encouraging start -- Sens were lost in a sloppy fog most of the game, bailed out by goaltending and a clutch performance by their captain. But then again, as the blueshirts like to remind us, the regular season doesn't count for crap.
Toronto captain Mats Sundin could miss four to six weeks after breaking the lower orbital bone when he was hit in the face by a puck in the season opener, the Maple Leafs announced Thursday.
I guess this is Wellwood's big chance.
Hat tip Japer's Rink
How the mighty Leaf Nation has fallen. Not so much the players on the ice last night but their fans.
They now take solace in trumpetting how they held the winning opposition to under 40 shots or how they even might have won if only one of their brittle buds could have played the entire game.
Don't worry Leaf fans. Your excuses are being served on a platter.
My God! How does it feel to think you are only the all but certain injuries to Lindros and Allison away from Matt Hubbauer and Brett Engelhardt being your number 3 and 4 centres - behind Stajan and Steen?
Although they got the win, any realistic Senator fan has to be somewhat concerned by last nights game. The Senators took way too many penalties and the Leafs managed to keep the Senators offence under control for most of the game. The other thing that might concern Senators fans is that Brian Murray's plan to distribute the offence over three lines appears to have failed so far. Although Alfredsson played well most of the game, he simply couldn't generate much offence playing with Fisher and Neil. And maybe more concerning is that the second line of Schaeffer, Smolinski and Havlat haven't been producing much offence through the pre-season and now into the regular season. In 21 combined games so far they produced just 4 goals and 9 points. If the Senators are going to have a successful season they need that line to contribute more goals.
And you might want to try getting more shots on net. That the team that is supposed to walk away with the cup couldn't demolish the Leafs ( remember we are supposed to finish lower than Washington this year) WITHOUT MATS SUNDIN would have me a little concerned if I was a Sens fan.
If this thing was a playoff game and had continued with sudden death overtime you know the Leafs would have scored the winner.
There are no shootouts in the playoffs Sens fans.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
A night of roller coaster emotions. From the highs and lows of the opening period when Ottawa outplayed the Leafs but trailed 1-0 to a growing frustration in the 2nd when an obvious offensive powerhouse failed to have a shot on net during the first 10 minutes of the period.
Then, when Murray put Alfredsson with Spezza and Heatley together for the first time you just knew it was going to make something happen. Their next shift produced the first goal and the same threesome put in the tying goal.
What a game to start the shootout! Hasek must be one of the most intimidating goalies to face in that situation and predictably Toronto failed to get a shot on net on their two breakaways.
More comments from this side tomorrow.
4 of 6 from the Sportsnet panel pick the Sens to be in the final.
0 of 7 experts from ESPN pick the Sens to win the cup.
Damn Americans. I hate those bastards.
Cherry is picking the Sens - and I'm sorry to report Ottawa's own McSquinty is too. Oh well - it balances out I guess.
Cherry is also picking our team to have the Art Ross winner (Spezza), the Calder winner (Bochenski), and Hasek to win the Vezina and the Hart!
Cherry on Bryan Murray: "He looks to me like a principal I used to have and butter would not melt in his mouth, but he likes tough, aggressive hockey and he is a proven winner. "
Ok Ottawa fans your team's first big test is upon you. This is the year for the Sens right? After cruising through the exhibition and beating up on AHL goalies and rookies with your team already set you get to face a real opponent tonight.
Not to worry though, only the most die hard Leafs fans are predicting good things for this team. No one it seems is willing to go on record as having this team even make the playoffs - that's right the team that when last played had 103 points will somehow mysteriously drop by about 6-9 spots in the standings. In the fantasy world of the Leaf haters we are the new Washington Capitals.
So for your team this has to be one of the "easy" two pointers. I mean after all you are supposed to win the Cup this year. Your team is stacked with young stars whilst your opponent has put together a team on the cheap with a bunch of oft injured has-beens. And now half of the defense core has come up lame in the past 24 hours.
Toronto this year should be like what it used to be when Tampa and Florida were the laughing stock of the conference. Fly-in, catch some zz's, do some shopping, make sure Hasek doesn't get into the mini-bar, trounce the opposition, fly home again.
I figure anything less than 8-0 or if they score a lucky goal late in the game 8-1 should be a good final score from a team that makes the Hab's of the 70's look like an expansion team.
Cause even if this game is close, what does it say about your boys in Black and Gold? That they could barely beat a team that isn't supposed to make any noise this year?
And what will it say about your beloved Sens if they somehow manage to lose the game tonight? They can't even beat a team that one Toronto Sun writer refers to as "the geriatric squad"?
Oh it is going to be difficult to be a Sens fan this year.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Damien Cox's article on Bryan McCabe has a couple of other nice lines as well including:
"Has McCabe, at the tender age of 30, finally grown up?"
"The last we saw the defenceman in NHL competition, he was being embarrassed in every which way imaginable by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs, with the puck seeming like a time bomb on the end of his stick."
"When the lockout came, he ventured to Sweden to play but soon found himself headed back home in a fit of pique when the team he was playing for benched him. "
"At his worst, reliance on those natural attributes leave him hopelessly out of position or trying to do too much when less would suffice."
No doubt about it - the Leaf season will depend heavily on McCabe. On one hand, he could be wearing a Team Canada jersey in Italy. Just as likely, he could be the reason the Leafs will still be looking for a playoff spot in the spring.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Hey are we ready for the regular season or what? I didn't get to watch the game as closely as I would have liked but I will tell you what I liked. Or more specifically who I liked:
Man when that guy gets the puck you just can't get it off him. I love the look of a power play with Allison on it. He could be the quarterback that Toronto has been looking for for a long time. He and McCabe and Czerkawski teamed up on a beautiful goal during one power play.
McNeil also scored as did Wozniewski, and Antropov.
The team looked as sharp as last night with Lindros returning and playing his best game of the pre-season. He was named the first star although I didn't think he was the best player. I felt that McCabe, Allison and Sundin played as well or better.
But the surprise of the night was Michael Tellqvist who was solid in net for Toronto only giving up one goal and looking spectacular at times. In fact this was the best game I have ever seen this kid play (regular season, AHL or international included) and quite frankly it's about time. I don't know how they could let him have the backup job if he played poorly tonight.
Speaking of backups the Wings elected not to go with starter Chris Osgood (after playing Legace last night) instead they went with 21-year-old rookie Jim Howard who played as well as could be expected. But with the regular season about to open you have to wonder why their first string goalie wasn't in net.
Penalties still played a part however there weren't as many as last night. And overall the Wings looked listless. I expected them to play with much more intensity. They still pumped 30 shots at Tellqvist but didn't seem to threaten to score that often.
So we come to the end of pre-season with the Leafs at 4-4 in exhibition play and with some cuts still to be made. At this point Thomas, Marchment, Wellwood, Steen, Wozniewski and Kronwall don't know their fate. And the past two games didn't make that decision much easier for Pat Quinn.
Update: According to Hockey Leaks Thomas has been cut in favour of Steen.
The Leafs started well and looked more energetic since they played Montreal out shooting the wings 6-1 early on despite giving up an early penalty.
Legacy was forced to make some good saves as both the Sundin-Ponikarovsky-Antropov line and the Wellwood-Tucker-O’Neil line looked sharp.
The Leafs took three early penalties (some a little suspect if you ask me) and killed them off very well. Clarke Wilm looked very good on the PK and this is why he will remain on this team. In fact the Leaf PK has gotten a ton of practice in the pre-season which will probably stand them in good stead to start the year since they have a noticeable habit of taking large amounts of penalties in each game.
Mats Sundin alone had three calls against him, which led Joe Bowen to quip that he could challenge for the lead in penalty minutes this year.
Antropov looked better in the first 10 minutes of this game than he has all pre season. Perhaps the message from Leaf nation is getting through to him. Namely: effort counts in this town buddy. No floating allowed.
The Leafs had 18 shots in the first period but Detroit woke up in the second and out shot them for the rest of the game they managed however to beat Belfour only twice as Eddy rebounded from a poor outing against Buffalo earlier this week.
Both teams power play and penalty kill units looked more like regular season form. Compared to the disorganized stuff we saw early on in the pre-season. In fact the game had more of a regular season feel in general.
You could see that the Leafs are in much better shape now than they were in the first couple of weeks of camp. There was definitely more jump to their step. Even Antropov looked speedy and by speedy I mean slow but not a slow as a turtle, more like the speed of an old Soviet era Tractor plowing the fields of Kazakhstan. But it is an improvement. I don’t know about him and Pony starting the season as a line with Sundin though. It could work but I think Sundin might need some faster wingers. However the Swedish Gordie Howe does tend to improve the play of others around him and he certainly can drag those two along with him.
One thing that was obvious last night is that the Leafs without Lindros and Allison are not pushovers. In fact the line combinations last night suggested that should one or both of these guys fall during the regular season it isn’t a total disaster. And that is due to the fact that the Leafs have some good young centers that can step up.
Aside from the Sundin line last night we had:
Tucker-Wellwood-O’Neil and they were a threat to score regularly O’Neil has a tremendous shot and teams would be wise not to let this guy get a clear shot at anytime.
Steen-Stajan-Thomas (looks like Stumpy will not make the team though)
Wilm-Kilger-Czerkawski (hey even the fourth line has a potential scorer)
Domi also didn’t play so if the line up had to withstand an injury to Lindros and Allison I could see Domi on the fourth line with Czerkawski on the third with Stajan and Steen. This could work since Steen very responsible in his own end whereas Czerkawski hasn’t yet looked up the words “backchecking” or “defense” in his Polish-English dictionary.
The defense was close to the regular season pairings with the unusual step by Quinn of playing both Colaiacovo and Kronwall together – even seeing PK duty which is a pretty strong endorsement of the impression these two are starting to make at this level.
Colaiacovo looked much better than he has in recent games. And he also looked very good on the PP putting a hard shot on the net, which resulted in the fourth Leafs goal. However he does tend to make costly turnovers in his own end. His errant pass did lead to a late goal by Maltby. If Carlo is to stick Pat will have to pair him with a more defensive minded veteran. A good choice would be Klee but he is out and upon his return both Colaiacovo and Kronwall could be sharing a cab to the Ricoh center.
The Leafs defense pairings were as follows:
Belfour played the entire game and was backed up by Michael Tellqvist
Both teams hook up for their final pre-season games tonight at Air Canada Center. The big show starts Wednesday when some team from Ottawa shows up.
Bring it on.