Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Well, 2006 can not end soon enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa senators. While the senators enjoyed a top seed and a series win over Tampa it all ended too soon at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. On the other hand, the forces of light had to endure two extended (one still going!) losing/terrible streaks and no springtime victory over their enemies to act as a salve over another season without the Stanley Cup.

All the best to all visitors and commenters during the coming year. Hopefully, at least the Leafs find better fortune and if they do not then please let the sens continue to struggle!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Are you READY TO RUM-BUUUUUUUUULLLLL!?!


Round 1: 4-1 Sens in Toronto
Round 2: 6-0 Leafs in Ottawa
Round 3: 6-2 Sens in Toronto
Round 4: 7-2 Sens in Ottawa.

TV: Hockey Night in Canada

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Undercard

On the eve of the fifth installment of the Battle of Ontario both squads will be in action. The senators will be hosting the New York Rangers who defeated them 3-1 earlier in the month and the Leafs will travel to Pittsburgh looking to continue their domination of Sid the Kid's Penguins. Saturday night is the main event as Leaf and sens fans across the country will summon up the vitriol as the two struggling clubs will be looking to pick up two valuable divisional points.

The real story facing both squads is the injury bug that has been slowly picking the teams apart. The sens have Wade Redden trying to return to form (not this year's form) after a layoff, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher have matching 4-6 week prognoses (what a prescient post) leaving Chris Kelly as the top line centre and that will not help Jay sleep tonight. And don't forget that Ray Emery still seems to be nursing his wrist injury and God knows The Gerber Baby cannot step in to give him some time off.

Meanwhile, the good guys are suffering a worse crisis as Michael Peca is out for 3 months with a broken leg (no accompanying knee injury), The Soviet Bloc of Pony and Antro are week to week with shoulder and ankle injuries, Kyle Wellwood has some mystery hip ailment, and Darcy Tucker has one bruise too many. For those keeping track, that means five of the Leafs pre-season top six forwards are out. This means that for the forseeable future the Leafs will feature more Marlies than Leafs. If history is anything to go by the call-ups will play above their heads only to watch the Leafs stumble as the regulars return. Oh, and Maurice is not happy with the goaltending.

Tonight's predictions:

Rangers 5 v. sens 3
Leafs 5 v. Pens 4

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The west is the best?

Anybody else find Edmonton and Calgary fans unreasonably cocky these days?

Seems they haven't cross-referenced their existence lately.

Shift the Leafs or the Senators over to the western conference and we'd be tied for first in the division, enjoying a playoff spot as I write this. That's how bad it is!

So what's all the fan confidence about? A couple of Cinderalla playoff runs and you would think by listening to them that Alberta is to hockey what Brazil is to football.

The biggest culprits are Edmonton fans. If I hear about how great this Edmonton offense is one more time, I'm going to start acting like that Oiler down-syndrome kid from the 80's. Read any of Sean McCormick's blogs for some irritating reference. The chronically low-scoring Flames have scored more goals for crying out loud! Ottawa and Toronto have scored 25 more goals each, and even pitiful Los Angeles have 6 more on the year.
Joffrey Lupul, the offensive stalwart who came over in the Pronger deal, has a whopping 16 points and is a -14.
And not only has Kevin Lowe not had his car keyed for that one, but they actually praise the guy.
It's mind boggling.

Well, I just thought that since we're days away from tearing each others heads off as the Dec 3oth chapter of BoO commences, we could focus on slamming somebody else for a few hours.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

MEET JEFF O'NEIL.


Jeff O'Neil. It's not as common a name as, say, Mohammad. But google the name and you'll find a few of them out there.
Take this guy on the left... He's the CEO of an American wine making company who distributed 1.5 million bottles of vino last year. Impressive.

Of course, there's also the Jeff O'Neil who plays for the Leafs. He scored a huge late goal tonight to help the buds snap a losing streak and creep a few points up the standings. What's strange though, is that this Jeff O'Neil makes 1.5 Million dollars a year.
Coincidence? Is there something about the name and 1.5 Million?

I'll do some digging and get back to you, Scully.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Ramadan, and best wishes on whatever holiday you are celebrating. All the best in the New Year to all the commenters that make writing for and visiting the site so much fun especially Gee, THM, and even Duff. Even better wishes to the Leaf fans! Take care of yourselves and enjoy the holidays.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bah Humbug!

The ottawa senators visit the bumbling Philadelphia Flyers and will be looking to extend the Flyers 7 game losing streak (0-6-1). The senators were dealt a blow when it was revealed that Jason Spezza would be out for four-six weeks. He has really been the straw the stirs the sens' offence. Fisher will skate with Alfredsson and Heatley on the top line but that leaves little else in terms of offence for the other three lines.

Meanwhile, the Leafs will look to begin Life After Peca with a home win against the Capitals. In their only meeting this season the Leafs crushed the Caps 7-1 but that might as well have been in a different lifetime. Michael Peca will likely be out for the season as Jim Vandermeer added to the Leafs woes with a dirty hit. Kyle Wellwood might make his return tonight but The Soviet Bloc of Nikolai Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky are still out. The injury bug seems to have moved from the defence to the forwards. Now that Justin Pogge is in Switzerland with the Spengler Cup Canadian squad I can only assume that one or both of Aubin and Raycroft will get hurt. Thank God for Liverpool's win or I would be despondent.

I predict two losses because it's just been that kind of season.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

C'est Fini

Last place in the Northeast, Bruins with four games in hand, Spezza leaves with a Body Injury, Wade Redarse is -3 in his return, a complete collapse against the third worst team in the East...and a surely understated "must-win" against Philly is on deck!

When real hockey sucks, it's good to know that in the world of fantasy, the mighty Ancapistan A's are closing in on BoO truant Greg Staples for top spot in the CBHL. Led by old friends Marian Hossa and Brian Pothier along with contributions from the likes of Hammerin' Hank Bobbsey and Ilya "Tha Ill Shit" Kovalchuck, the A's are in an enviable position going into 2007.



(Note: I may or may not chime in over the next two weeks as I'm off to my birth city and home of the Mooseheads for the holidays. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting and I'll see y'all in the New Year!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blowout of Ontario

So in April, when we're all sitting around scratching our asses wondering where the season went to, will we remember December 19th as the pivotal night of the schedule? The moment we conceded a sixth point to the Boston Bruins and an incremental goal differential in an otherwise inconsequential 7 goal rout-off with our provincial rivals?

Comments, suggestions on who should be cut, demoted, traded, fired, run out of town on a rail, publicly flogged, shoved in a burlap sack and tossed into the nearest river...are all welcome.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hockey Night in Ontario

The Toronto Maple Leafs play host to their former mate Eddie Belfour and the Florida Panthers. The Leafs are on a three game winning streak which has seen them score 18 goals after only managing 9 in the previous 7 games. Carlo Colaiacovo will do all in his power to maintain his personal win streak including continuing the rejuvenation of his defensive partner Pavel Kubina. The Panthers always play the Leafs tough so the boys in blue will need to put forth the same sort of effort that saw the Rangers dispatched with ease.

And in the provincial backwater of Ottawa, the 11th placed senators play host to the one that got away and the BoO's official nemesis the Boston Bruins. The sens have already lost two one-goal games to the Bruins and will be looking to tie the Leafs current streak of three straight losses to the beantowners. Go Chara!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Leafs Fear No Swedish Goalie


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As you could guess from that smile inducing picture, the Leafs dominated every facet of their game against the New York Rangers. Poor Henrik Lundqvist paid for his shenanigans of a few weeks ago as Tom Renney left the gold medal-winning goaltender in for eight of the Leafs nine goals.

The first period illustrated how bounces can affect the outcome of a game. When the Leafs were losing the bounces were decidedly against them. Tonight, O'Neill's pass on Carlo's opening goal went off a Ranger's skate directly to the pinching defenceman. Later, a poor Ponikarovsky dump-in bounced over the defenceman's stick and let John Pohl in alone on net before slipped a shot under Lundqvist's blocker arm. Kyle Wellwood apparently could hear the stream of invective that I fired his way last night because of his aversion to shooting as he fired home three goals for his first career hat trick.

On the back-end, the Leafs defence had a good game and continue to adapt to their respective roles and ice time. Now that the injury bug seems to have moved on from the defence (Get well soon Darcy!) the minutes and pairings that Maurice had in mind at the beginning of the season have contributed to much stronger defensive efforts during the Leafs current resurgence. There is still a long way to go for this group to reach their potential but they are making progress.

The Leafs reborn offence faces the Panthers at home on Tuesday as the look to extend their current streak to four games.

Steen joins in on the fun.

For the second time in three nights, the Leafs fought through 3rd period penalties and a late opposition comeback attempt, for a highly entertaining victory.

Sundin passed a few more hockey greats on the all-time scoring list, and Steen broke out of a season long slump, looking suddenly like the player we knew last year. Damien Cox talks about it here, putting his "I love the Leafs" mask back on. He's more fair weather than a Canuck fan, I tell you.

Tonight the Leafs host the Rangers, while the Senators visit the Sabres.

*Of note: The Leafs are unbeaten since Carlo Colaiacovo rejoined the team.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Gay Old Time

You know there's a ghastly blowout underway when the game day thread degenerates into a debate on the whether canceling the O-Train contract was a good idea.

I have only two hockey-related observations on this dark and gloomy night. Firstly, is Chris Kelly completely out of his element or what? I've said it before and I'll say it again - this guy couldn't hit the arse end of a bull with a shovel full of piss. Secondly, Vernon "Vern" Fiddler is quite possibly the greatest name ever.

Anyways, in the spirit of the hour, here's the script from the Simpson's Marge vs. the The Monorail episode as well as Lyle Lanley's sing along.

UPDATE: Arrrrggghh. Looking to ease the sting with the knowledge that I had 3 Predators in my hockey pool, I check the standings this morning to find that I had neglected to reactivate Steve God Damn Sullivan prior to the nightly roster freeze.

Bwha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha!

To make your Thursday a little brighter check this out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oh Happy Day!

And in one night, things are alright in Ontario as Toronto answered the senators 3-2 win over Detroit (Damn you Dom) with a 5-4 fightback win over the Lightning. This ends the Leafs 0-fer record when trailing after the first period.

J-S Aubin got the start and only lasted until the first minute of the second period. He was the victim of a Mats Sundin deflection and a Bryan McCabe braincramp. Paul Maurice gave him the hook and turned the ACC air blue with a timeout tirade that despite being inaudible on TV was nonetheless terrifying. Apparently it worked on the Leafs.

Andrew Raycroft kept the Lightning off the board with a couple of big saves before Chad Kilger scored a brace to tie the game heading into the third. Ottawa favourite Darcy Tucker deflected a Sundin shot to give the Leafs the lead before Jeff O'Neill jumped on a juicy rebound to hammer home a 5th. Tampa added a fourth on a powerplay but the Leafs defended well in the third period and came away with the win.

Other notables were Pavel Kubina, who played great against his old mates, Carlo, who did not look out of place after an almost year long layoff, and Michael Peca, who continued his excellent play of late with assists on the second and third goals.

So the weight is lifted off the Leafs. They played better all-around but there is still a long way for them to go before they reach the pre-losing streak levels let alone where the team should be. Next up is a Friday-Saturday double bill that starts in Carolina.

A comment on the sens game: Does each great performance by Emery make Muckler look dumber for signing Gerber?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stick This, Chelios

From the Detroit Free Press:
“Dom, whether it’s Ottawa, or Buffalo, where he played before, he’s competitive; he hates losing. He hates giving up goals in practice. He’s just competitive and doesn’t like getting beat. As far as trying to stick it to them, who knows – if it was me, I’d like to stick it to them.”

[...]

A player about to face his former team sometimes rewards a teammate who scores the game-winning goal; the Wings, though, have yet to hear from Hasek on this point.
“We’ll bring it up with him, see what he wants to do for us,” Nicklas Lidstrom said with a smile.

After 43 saves, Number 1 tender Ray Emery came out the better tonight, battling immense pressure to face down his former mate (according to Garrioch on the pre-game show, apparently he snarked at a reporter after practice).

No word on whether he's planning on rewarding his buddy Spezza with a nice tat for his game winning goal.

Keep your head up Vinny

Finally, after 11 months, Carlo Colaiacovo gets back in the line-up tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And no, he ain't the messiah, or the second coming of Bobby Orr; but this guy can move the puck and lay bomb hits welcome on any blue line, especially one mired in a seven game losing streak. I think I speak for most Leaf fans when I say, welcome back Carlo.

Now this looks like a kid ready to play.

Oh... and Ottawa play Detroit tonight as well.

Do it for Rory, do it for all of us.

Haven't realized what all the fuss is about? Watch these ads and then go vote for FITZPATRICK, R - VAN.

Merry Christmas Dom!


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The sens will be paying a visit to Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings and their old pal, Poppy McGroin. Don Brennan writes about the Dominator's return to form after his latest groin injury, his return to his best shape, and that the sens could have had Vesa Toskala in a trade instead of signing The Gerber Baby. And he finishes the wonderful article by noting that Dom has a history of owning the sens:
Never mind that he has always played well against the Senators. Forget that he has a 24-7-5 record, a 1.41 G.A.A. and an incredible .953 save percentage in 37 career games vs. Ottawa.
It'll be tough to forget all of that as the sens losing streak gains momentum and stretches to four games.

In other news, Bryan Murray does NOT believe that there is a conspiracy against the senators:
I would hope not.
I thought only Toronto coaches whined enough about penalties to get second rate journalists to suggest a conspiracy. Welcome to the big time Ottawa!

Oh and the Leafs try to halt their streak at 7 with a game against the Lightning. J-S Aubin gets the start against a team that the Leafs beat 4-2 once upon a time when they were winning games for fun. Time to see more of that because the sens nascent losing streak is not as much fun if the Leafs are setting the pace.

They'll eat their words

when McCabe and Kaberle end up 1-2 in Norris voting.....
The plan to improve the Maple Leafs by improving their defence is proving to be a huge waste of money.
Despite having one of the most expensive blueline corps in the NHL, the Leafs languish near the bottom of the league in defensive statistics, writes the Toronto Sun.
It is tied for fifth worst in goals surrendered with 105, and sits in the bottom 10 in goals-against average.
At $16.3 million, the Leafs have the highest payroll for its top three defencemen in the league, in Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle.

Hockey Hearsay

God love him

Cox:
Perspective is always important.
So no, the Maple Leafs haven't won a hockey game in 18 days.
But that's not such a long time when you consider they haven't played a playoff game in more than 2 1/2 years.
Or won a Stanley Cup in 40 years.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Almost Due

Sheesh. Lots of long faces around here lately.

So, Alfie's out, Redden's out and Gerber might as well be out. Want to see an even more critical injury deplete the team? Well, by my watch Mike Fisher is due for some sort of calamity. The Sen's most consistently energetic performer this season (even on nights where they gas out the joint) has missed on average about 25 games a season. While Alfie and Wade have occasionally gone unnoticed (or had noticeable gaffes) when in the lineup, losing Fish as they fight to maintain a playoff spot through the doldrums of January and February could very well tank the season. Alternatively, Toronto could continue to suck worse than us and we'll snag 8th by virtue of being the least mediocre team in the Northeast (and/or our repeated poundings serving as a safe tie-breaker in our favour).

I recommend a bubble wrap application before every game and extra caution while navigating that remodelled kitchen.

Welcome!

The sens dropped their third straight against Columbus 6-2. In an eerily similar fashion to the Leafs loss last night the sens allowed the Blue Jackets to go 5-for-11 on the powerplay. Martin Gerber put in another solid performance allowing 4 goals on 13 shots including a complete botching of a rebound that allowed Rick Nash a tap-in into an empty net. It was all downhill after that as first Brian McGrattan picked up a clipping penalty for a low hit and Andrej Meszaros received a five minute misconduct for a hit from behind. The two dirty hits led to three Columbus powerplay goals.

With that loss the sens join the Leafs on the outside of the playoff picture and have shown all the makings of a second long losing streak this season. Tough weekend for the Ontario teams.

Moreover, Ottawa must be destroyed.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

7th Time Unlucky

Well, down 2-0 to Dominik Hasek and the Red Wings so I think anyone can predict the outcome once tonight's 60 minutes have ended. However, the Leafs have not been the worst team on the ice. That dubious honour goes to the atrocious referees, Dennis LaRue and Brad Meier.

So far, in one period they have called a hook on Matt Stajan for lifting the stick. On that powerplay Chad Kilger got tripped with no call on the play and after the goal he got two minutes for complaining. This, one night after Peter Schaeffer received no penalty for waving a towel on the end of his stick. How Stephen Wolkom can say that his referees are instructed to ignore any shows of disrespect from the bench is beyond me. So instead of nullifying a Red Wing powerplay they blow the call AND give them another powerplay right away. That is clearly a malicious call because the right call (the one that usually gets mad) is a ten minute misconduct. Don Cherry was upset during Coach's Corner.

Most will argue that these are just the rumblings of an irate Leafs fan but the truth is that the wildly inconsistent refereeing has been a problem in every game I have watched and for every team. All 30 teams are suffering from the ineptness of the NHL's officials. And that is before you bring up how on earth Colin Campbell can explain that AO did not get suspended because he is a star. The level of craptitude shown by the NHL has started to ruin the game for me and I understand how lifelong fans can just stop watching: it is becoming farcical.

Update: In a game that made the last four Bruins games look interesting by contrast the Leafs ended up losing 5-1 to the Detroit Red Wings powerplay. This game was a perfect illustration of what happens when traditional rivals play twice over three years. Neither team played particularly well, the Detroit crowd was so dead that you could hear the coaches yelling at some points, and Detroit's powerplay was 5 for 13. Ridiculous. On the bright side, Ottawa lost 3-1 to the Rangers so it's a sad day in the Battle of Ontario.

The senators look to use their game in hand to move above the Leafs on points and not goal differential. The teams behind both squads are winning their games in hand so the sens will be looking to stay above the pack. Go Blue Jackets!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Better Together?

CBC finally went and ran a lab experiment to answer the question that's been nagging me for some time:
With a little help from our trusty Xbox 360 and NHL 2K7, we ran a simulated game between Team Canada and Team Qu├ębec. Which squad would come out on top?

Just glancing at the proposed lineup, I'd have guessed the score would be close. Quebec has way better tending, ROC has better forwards and the Quebec D is quite faible. In any event, Antoine Vermette decided the game in a shootout.

Who would like to see a curling format to settle this? Each province / territory earns the right to represent the nation (and add on a few choice "pick-ups" before the big tourney).

Plus, the seeding looks a little more intriguing (from the proposed ROC lineup):

* Sidney Crosby - NS
* Rod Brind'Amour - ON
* Eric Staal - ON
* Dany Heatley - Germany?
* Jason Spezza - ON
* Brendan Shanahan - ON
* Patrick Marleau - SASK
* Joe Thornton - ON
* Jarome Iginla - AB
* Joe Sakic - BC
* Paul Kariya - BC
* Ryan Smyth - ON (surely this guy has Albertan citizenship?)
* Jonathan Cheechoo - ON
* Rick Nash - ON

* Chris Pronger - ON
* Scott Niedermayer - AB
* Bryan McCabe - ON
* Sheldon Souray - AB
* Dion Phaneuf - AB
* Rob Blake - ON

* Marty Turco - ON
* Dwayne Roloson - ON
* Cam Ward - SASK

Er, maybe Quebec and Ontario can just get a bye to the final.

Christmas comes early

Standings two weeks ago.
Standings today.

Baking With The Maple Leafs

After watching the Leafs blow another third period lead I realized that maybe poking jabs at the sens was not a good idea if the Leafs were not going to back me up with anything resembling a playoff-calibre performance. But it is just so much fun riling up sens fans that I'll take my lumps.

In all honesty, last night reminded me of watching a cooking show. The first 2/3 is great because you are learning how to make something that looks so good but the last 1/3 sucks when you realize that you are not getting any. So in that spirit, here is the recipe for (lack of) success that the Leafs have been following:

Ingredients:

22 blue and white clad hockey players
40 minutes of hockey
20 minutes of mental errors
1 obliging opponent
1 sheet of ice
2 brutal referees
thousands of devoted fans
1 handful of mediots

Instructions:

Take your 22 blue and white clad hockey players and 2 brutal referees and toss them onto your sheet of ice. Have the players play a distinctly uncreative and workmanlike 40 minutes while the referees make horrendous calls on both sides. Ensure that the blue guys do not capitalize on any gift powerplays. This will usually result in a closely contested game and possibly a lead heading into the final 20 minutes. Right now our meal probably looks very tasty. This won't last.

These final 20 minutes will feature more bad calls by the referees and numerous mental errors. Now add your obliging opponent who will have spent the first 40 minutes frustrated and possibly trailing. Have them capitalize on the mental errors or gift powerplays until they are in the lead. Make sure that this happens so fast that it makes your head spin. Toss in thousands of irate devoted fans and a handful of mediots before serving the dish. If it taste bitter and eats away at your sould you made it just right. Serves at least six and hopefully no more.

Last nights goats:
  1. Alexei Ponikarovsky - fell asleep at the blueline and let Brad Stuart waltz past him to score the equalizer.

  2. J-S Aubin - Gave out a massive rebound right to Wayne Primeau who promptly buried it into the yawning cage. An exact replica of Patricia Bergeron's OT winner a few games ago.

  3. Darcy Tucker - Instead of staying by the point and covering his man he followed the puck down to the slot and left Patricia all alone. Bergeron rifled a shot past Aubin's glove to seal the win.
Hal Gill opens the floor to inventing a new word:
Frustration is a good word. What's more than frustrating?

It should also describe this visual representation of Leafs' fans this morning.

Moreover, Ottawa must be destroyed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wanna Bet?





Mired in a five game losing streak, Vegas still thinks the Leafs will win.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

He Who Laughs Last...

After a long day of letting Leafs fans know how bad their team is Gee, Duff, and THM sat down to watch their team dismantle the Washington Capitals and use their game in hand to soar past the boys from T.O. If those Leafs could put 7 by Kolzig then they would manage at least a half dozen! Well something happened on the way to the rink...

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Ray Emery did his best Gerber Baby impression and allowed 6 goals (including a softie or two) on 37 shots for a .838 SV% and the sens were unable to match the Leafs' performance of just 12 days ago. Just as the crew started to think that the old sens were back they laid an egg.

Up next for the Leafs is another trip to Beantown to face the Trappin' Bruins. I promise never to make fun of Tim Thomas if he stops playing like Tiny Thompson.

After the Leafs stop their slide behind a Raycroft 30 save performance and Alex Steen's first goal since forever they will move back above the sens. Of course, the sens will have a game in hand...

Update: As paul noted, J-S Aubin will be getting the start tonight. The Leafs have back-to-backs the next three weekends so tonight's game is a good time to get him some action after three weeks off. Of course this will do nothing to stem the tide of the Toronto Mediots trying to pin the losing streak on Raycroft. Steen is still in the lineup and will still score.

Moreover, Ottawa must be destroyed.

6th place and rising, 7th place and falling


'Nuff said?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tonight's games

After tonight's Leaf loss to Atlanta and the Sens win against the Islanders, our teams will be tied in the standings (Sens with a game in hand).

Yes, the Leafs at the start of the year would have been happy to be in a top 8 spot tied with us after 28 games but considering how the last month has gone for the Buds things don't look so good.

From CP:
Toronto has two points less right now than it had after the same number of games, 28, last season, and defensive weaknesses still are a major problem. The Leafs' 3.09 goals-against average was 20th among the 30 teams as of Monday.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Highlight Reel in Ottawa

I feel obligated to give credit where it's due... even when it applies to the Sens.

Last night this goal by Vermette was damn nice.
A pure skill play you have to love and the kind we're seeing more of in the new NHL. I personally didn't know Vermette had it in him?

Ottawa are clearly on a roll and their favourable schedule continues into next week with games against the very beatable Islanders and Capitals. The way they're playing there is no reason to think they won't hop scotch into a playoff position by weeks end.


The Leafs played very well last night despite the S/O loss. They outshot Montreal 39-22, and dominated the game while getting to the leagues hottest goaltender early. A late penalty by Ian White (the dreaded Delay of Game over the glass), allowed Montreal to get the tying goal on the PP. Again, credit where it's due: Montreal never gave up.
Coming up is a tough week for the Buds who play Atlanta and Detroit, with the surging Bruins sandwiched in between.
Frankly, I would rather have Ottawa's schedule right now.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Tale of Two Farm Clubs















Caught the Marlies and Bulldogs tilt Friday on Sportsnet. It was nice to see a team in blue and white win a game. Feels like forever since I can say that.

Recently healthy defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Staffan Kronwall were in the line-up. They played great, especially Carlo who was easily the best player on the ice. He's just started his conditioning stint, but it won't be long before we see him with the parent club. He is the real deal, if he can stay healthy.

Oh, and it looks like a failed playoff record is not the only result from Ottawa's many 100 point seasons. It really hurt their drafting too. Binghampton, Ottawa's AHL affiliate, are currently dead last in their division and share the lead for most Goals Against in the AHL with Phoenix's farm club San Antonio.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Still Not Sold...

While sens nation is revelling in their recent run and the Leafs' struggles some objective observers are not quite sold on the Trojan Condoms. While Tyler's analysis (link in other link) suggested that the powerplay was the real reason behind the sens slow start Matt at BoA still has some lingering doubts as to whether the nebulous qualities of 'character' and 'heart' and 'coaching' are still hindering their efforts. He sums it up nicely with:
But in the grand scheme, there's got to be a certain point where the fact that so many of their wins are blowouts ceases to be impressive weighed against their close losses, and it's appropriate to wonder if there really is an underlying issue there, whether it's character, coaching, or what.

The Sabres series last year was a perfect example of how the sens struggled to close out tight games. Until they can consistently win those types of games the observations above will continue to ring true.

Note: this covers the first 20 games of the season. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues over games 21-40.

Leafs Exposed

Much like shards of plexiglass raining down on helpless moppets (they're ok, thankfully - too bad they missed a good game), I can't resist piling on our favourite Northeast division adversary. Look, I can understand Hossa running a cone drill on the Toronto back end, but how does anyone allow Shane Hnidy in on a breakaway? I don't care if he's just out of the box, Shane Hnidy does not "break" "away" ever. Where were the anointed 1 and 2 Norris contenders last night? Surely in 28 and 29 minutes of ice time, respectively, they'd manage to throw a hit or take a shot or something.

We're coming to get ya

Heatley is climbing the goal scoring chart. Raycroft is dropping in all the statistical categories. Emery is providing solid goaltending. The Leafs can't score. And the Sens are moving up in the standings.
On December 30th when the Sens and Leafs next play, what are the odds that the Leafs will..

a) still be ahead of Ottawa in the standings.
b) still be in the top 8 in the East.
c) be wondering where to send Sundin in order to rebuild for next year.

At Least We're Pretty

Leafs fans have seen this game before during this run of bad results. Leafs play a pretty good game but cannot capitalize on the powerplay, the opposition plays to spoil any offensive chances, the Leafs cannot summon the creativity to break down the mass of players that clogs the front of the net, and a former senator defeats the cause of good. The last 20 minutes were demoralizing but Paul Maurice has shown the ability to get the Leafs to bounce back from these kinds of games so it is not time to panic. Yet.

Leafs fans can look to the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, for guidance as he said "and this too shall pass."

Saturday night is an important divisional game in Montreal and the way that Cristobal Huet has been playing it is not going to get any easier to score. The sens are slithering up from the basement, someone reminded Tim Thomas and the Bruins that they were supposed to be good, and the Sabres are running away with the division. Life in the NHL's toughest division sure is fun.

On the bright side, CNN/SI thinks that the Leafs' unis rank among the best. Strangely, the Leaping Trojan Ad is nowhere to be found.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Shutouts galore

As Leaf Nation wonders where their goals went, Sens fans are watching their team round back into form. Tonight's games should be worthy of some Sen gloating.

I'll sleep on it myself. Feel free get started though....

Leafs Look to the Road

With a 7-2-3 road record and 51 goals scored in opposition barns, the Leafs are the NHL's 2nd best road team.

They also haven't lost against Atlanta since October 2003.

Put those two things together, and one would think the planets have aligned for the Leafs to end a bad run of games.

Yet, in the star this morning there is concern from Maurice that the team is losing games despite out-shooting and outplaying their opponents. 46 shots on Tuesday resulted in one goal which deflected off Antropov's skate. Not exactly potent touch around the net.

Sundin has been back for a week. It's time he started playing like their best player again, or this could turn ugly in a hurry.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Emery back in tomorrow

While Stevenson thought this:
With Ray Emery still nursing a sore wrist, it would seem to be a good time to give Gerber another shot Thursday night when the Florida Panthers are at Scotiabank Place. That would give Emery a chance to have five days off if he needs them.
It would also be a good boost for Gerber’s confidence if he could post back-to-back wins.
Murray thinks this:
"I just have to make decisions based on winning hockey games," explained Murray.
"I have to put in the players in that feel they can do that on a consistent basis right now."

I think the majority of Sens fans would agree with Murray.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gerber back in facing Carolina

I've been away so I haven't been able to comment on his return but here's an open post for game thoughts and Gerber analysis.

Tucker's Buddy is Here

The Leafs just traded Michael Tellquist to the Phoenix Coyote's for Tyson Nash and a 4th round pick.
Tucker and Nash won a Memorial Cup together.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

As a welcome home gift for The Muppet here is the clip of Darcy Tucker single handedly taking on the Bruins. Thanks to Mirtle for finding it. It has created quite a bit of discussion with the virulent anti-Leafs fans showing that glaucoma can strike anyone any time and poor put-upon Leaf fans having to try to stem the tide of blinkered hate.

This much is clear to anyone with a pair of functioning eyes: Tucker is chasing the puck until the faceoff dot where he decides he can't make it and glides into a huge hit with Chara the force of which lifts him off his feet (he is about 3 feet and 200 lbs lighter than the Sens' Old Boy). As he is skating at centre ice he sees Marc Savard charging at him and he hits him in the chest knocking him to the ice. Then Paul Mara takes offence that Tucker didn't allow Savard to cheap shot him from behind and flies at Tucker. Darcy lands the first hit, takes a few bombs, gives back a couple and then wrestles Mara to the ice.

Here is the anti-leafs version: Tucker takes 15 strides all the way until he gets to Chara where he proceeds to launch himself in the air for the final three feet of this vicious assault. Darcy then hunts down Savard, who was just checking out the crowd, before cross-checking him in the throat. Tucker then goes after non-fighter Paul Mara and tries to break his hand with the back of his head. What a goon!

I am guessing that Sens fans will see a lot more of the latter version.

Tonight, the two teams meet for the fourth time in the past month and this could be the kind of heated game that the league wanted to create when they made their division-heavy schedule. Darcy Tucker has already said that he welcomes a rematch with Mara and Raycroft laughed off suggestions by Marc Savard that the Bruins had his number:

Savard shoots his mouth off all the time, it's nothing new.

The Leafs will have had a couple of practices to work Mats back into the lineup so I expect a much more cohesive performance tonight.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hockey Night in Jamaica

Back from my vacation with a new perspective:

First off, Senator fans, you would love Jamaica. Excellent beaches, delicious food, and zero Leaf games on Saturday night. The next time you complain about the CBC for their Toronto-skewed programming, remember that there are places where the hockey coverage is so anorexic you would kill for a steady diet of Darcy Tucker powerplay goals. I know this, because by the 5th day I would have watched a Senators practice if it was televised. No wonder Hockey doesn't grow outside of Canada.

An excellent vacation aside, it was a tough week for this particular Leaf fan. Partly because I couldn't watch a game, partly because the Buds went 2-3, but more so because the ESPN2 ticker in the sports bar kept regularly saying that Ottawa had won? I began to wonder if their satellite system was capturing last years feeds? I mean, talk about ruining a perfectly good tan.

Thankfully, news of the Tampa Bay Lightening's heroics greeted me at the airport like a smiling tour guide holding a sign with my name on it. God Bless you Martin St. Louis.

So, in catching up on all the news I have only one stone left unturned:
Where the hell can I see some video of that Tucker hit on Chara?

Johan

We know him now.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Everybody Loves Darcy

Mike Zeisberger's review of the first quarter of the season is pretty standard:
Ottawa Senators: Starting to find their way...

"from the depths of the Eastern Conference" must have been omitted. The review also contains a bombshell:
"The surprise for me right now is Tucker and the amount of goals he has for Toronto," Ruff said. "He's been a pleasant surprise. I would not have picked that."

Considering he was calling for his head at the end of last year that's pretty big of Lindy. First Peca, now Ruff, how long until Jochen Hecht says that Tucker is his inspiration?

In other news, the Leafs crushed the Brashear-less Capitals 7-1. Wellwood continued his three game scoring streak, Bryan McCabe stretched his point-scoring streak to 8 games, and Lindy's new best friend scored his team-leading 16th. How big of a blowout was it? Hal Gill scored a goal and picked up an assist. Tomorrow the Captain returns against the Bruins and I will be in attendance.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Points Per Million

With every payroll dollar becoming that much more valuable in the cap era, I thought I'd have a quick and dirty look at how much bang for the buck our two favourite teams are getting (and compare with a few league leaders):






















How meaningful are these? It's interesting to consider how Crosby is obviously a major outlier, but at some point his PPM is going to drop precipitously as his salary rises. It seems reasonable that Tucker and Neil have comparable (and relatively high) PPM's, but quite absurd when McAmmond and O'Neill look to be a better bargain than Rod Brind'Amour (plus there's that whole Stanley Cup winning captain thing). The rub is that while a Peca, Sundin or Alfie appear to be on par with a McGrattan, they each take up the same percentage of their respective team's roster as he does.

I haven't shown defensemen, as stay-at-home types are bound to get a bad rap, but the goalie stats (in terms of standing points earned) are instructive:

If you were to tell me...

...that in the closing days of November the Senators would find themselves in a must win situation against the Florida Panthers:




Well, I'm not sure if I would have laughed your ass out of the room or placed a pretty hefty bet against your assessment.

UPDATE: Still climbing out of the hole. Potentially a big loss on the blueline - just as he gets rolling along, the A-Train sustains a lower body injury.

Shake That Moneymaker

Tonight the Leafs travel to Washington to take on both Alexander the Greats (that's what happens when you have two good Alexanders on one team), Olaf Kolzig, and a bunch of nobodies. One guy they won't have to worry about is Donald Brashear. He went after one of the Thrashers cheap shot artists, Vishnevski, who previously went after Michael Peca's knee so I am not entirely broken up about the pummeling that Brashear delivered.

Japers' Rink has a good roundup of the pre-game. I did not know that the Caps had dropped 4 in a row. They are primed to deliver a great performance and of course it will come at the expense of the buds.

For those not blessed with LeafsTV the game will probably be available on the amazing TVU Player. I use it to follow Liverpool's games when they are not broadcast and it is a great program. They usually broadcast the game that gets the most votes in the forum and thanks to the legions of Leaf fans it is usually that night's Leafs broadcast.

But I have this awesome car....

Toronto Maple Leafs player Ian White is facing charges of driving while disqualified, CTV News has learned.
The promising young defenceman was stopped by police on Saturday and charged.
It is the second time White has been in trouble with the law in recent times.
He lost his driver's licence after he was convicted in September of impaired driving.
CTV

The guy makes over $500,000 a year. He could afford his own driver let alone pay for cabs for the year he's off the road.

'When a crusher becomes a rusher, he soon becomes an usher.'

That line is from Cherry. The article is Domi talking about Neil.

'Movie features gay Leaf'

The Star has an article on a new movie coming out 'Breakfast With Scot'. Some groundbreaking stuff here I guess:
What makes this movie even more unique is that the NHL and the Maple Leafs — part of a sport where no player has ever come out of the closet — have given the filmmakers their blessing to use their logos and uniforms. The Leafs have even agreed to let them do some filming with them at the end of a practice next month.
I found this part of the article in bad taste however as I was sure it was just an unfounded rumour:
The closest an active Leaf player has come to declaring their homosexuality was when it was discovered that Wendel Clark and Toller Cranston rented an apartment together.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

From Russia With Love

The Sens' pre-season solution to their second line question has been ripping the organization (along with most of the fans) from his self-imposed exile. Now, the Sens have finally responded:
He's smart, skilful, small and afraid, and that combination kind of leaves you wanting when you come into a building like this (The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia).

I would have thought that those traits would have made him a perfect fit for Ottawa. Unfortunately, Bryan Murray, that brilliant strategist, could not find a place for Kaigorodov to contribute:
We saw him play, and I had to make a judgment whether we keep Dean McAmmond, Kaigorodov or Denis Hamel or Brian McGrattan. When (Muckler) asked me, I said, 'I don't see where he's going to contribute to this team right now.

I guess there was no way he could give up Hamel's 4 pts (3-1), McGrattan's 1pt(0-1), or McAmmond's 7pts (3-4) to fit the solution to their longstanding problem area. Good managing.

A plea to Bryan.

Okay. It's time. Fire Paddock.

We are now getting heckled by Leaf fans! Leaf fans!?!

David Johnson:
The good news is if the Senators keep this pace up you won't have to worry about yet another playoff early exit disappointment.

On the other hand, there are those that think otherwise. A good comment by Gee:

Everybody relax. Easier said than done (for me too!) but, firing Paddock before the next game is very reactionary.

This is essentially the same team as last year, minus Comrie and Saprykin, but with 5 more Stanley Cup rings in the room.

They were going to have a bad month. It was probably going to be February. I've been saying this since October. They rolled strong out of the gates partly because their summer was short and they never really lost their old conditioning. Who knew it was going to be this bad? Ok, yeah nobody.

Coming in first in the standings. doesn't matter. It doesn't. Really. Honest. It's WAY better to take that lead and use it to fix whatever ails you.

What ails them? The goaltending situation. It's frustrating as hell to watch. But it's not the only issue, and it's not as bad as it feels after two blowout losses.

We have lots of time for either of these two goaltenders to get hot by end-of-season. Both have been in the SC final before. Both are in good health. This is a

If they can string together a few wins despite the not great goaltending, the team is going to get stronger. The goaltending is gonna get better too, and finally, the d-men will be able to work within one system (not, for Ray I do this and for Gerbs I do that...)

About that: Saturday's game was important because it showed an ability to beat a hot, loaded team in the East, to come back, and to find a way to win (thank you Alfie). These two losses are alarming, but making a coaching change based on those two losses it probably a little hasty. I know it's not JUST based on that, but c'mon. This is a team in second in the east.

The role guys, the veteran SC/leadership guys in the room, have not had a time to become strong enough in the locker room yet. This will change by mid-March or so. This team is going to be a lot cooler and a lot more confident come playoffs.

The Sens need 23 more wins this season to win the Stanley Cup. Only 7 of those need to be in the next 5 weeks (18 games). Extra wins? They don't count.

So there you have it. Fire him or don't. Just win baby.

This will cost...

Who knows how much Darcy Tucker is going to command as a free-agent but this sure won't help keep the cost down:

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The Leafs dropped a heartbreaker last night against the Flying Sabres. The game seemed to turn early in the second when the Sabres scored while on a powerplay following a perfectly executed double gainer by Chris Drury followed by a Brian Campbell tally. However, the Leafs fought back to tie the game on a great Mike Ryan tally (nope, he's not a Leaf) and Tucker's 15th. Unfortunately, a miscommunication between Raycroft and Kaberle led to Briere's winner and the Sabres added two empty netters to seal a 7-4 win.

The score is not indicative of the game as the Leafs controlled much of the second half (I missed most of the first half) and showed once again that they can play with the best team in the league. Friday night the Leafs travel to Washington before they host Boston on Saturday. I'll be at the latter game and hopefully I can get some better pictures.

In great news, Mats will be returning Saturday (fingers crossed) and JFJ got his option picked up! (Note: only one is exciting and keep Senior in your prayers)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

All's well that ends well

The Sens win in OT and the Leafs lose.
Salad dressing be damned.

Say it so....

I weep.

Um, it was for Garrioch, right? Right?

Leafs v. Sabres: Where are the fans?!

As Don pointed out, the haute couture segment of Leafs Nation has frequently embarrassed the true fans of the team. Tonight, however, will show that those true fans represent la creme de la creme (ummm, where are the accents?) of fandom. Toronto's followers will routinely fill the rink in Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo, and even Columbus and Pittsburgh now. Meanwhile, the same cannot be said for the support of the aforementioned clubs. Sure, Toronto is expensive but the opposition in those cities raise their prices for Leafs games and gouge fans of the blue and white.

Tonight's game will probably feature a fairly evenly split crowd hoping to see the Leafs continue the Sabres woes against Ontario-based teams. The Leafs' goalie with a heart of gold Andrew Raycroft will be looking to reprise his game-saving role from the last Leafs-Sabres meeting, one of his best performances of the year. Paul Maurice will be banking that the players' fear from Monday night will be incentive enough to step their game up the level necessary to compete with the Sabres. The Soviet Bloc and Wellwood will continue to be counted on to provide the offence until Mats returns on Friday or Saturday.

The last time these two teams met the talk (Edited to clarify) among my friends was all about how badly the Leafs would be beaten. The talk again is that if the Leafs do not perform significantly better than in the last three games that they could go the way of the Lightning. Hopefully, the negative talk spurs the team into again producing a top-notch effort in the Queen City.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Some proper respect

I was one person who was very critical of Volchenkov's play early this year so I feel like I should give him some praise now. He has ended up being one of the most reliable defencemen this season so far and has racked up some good numbers that don't show up on the scoreboard. Yes, he's 2nd in blocked shots in the league. He's 11th in the league in hits and some of those have been momentum turners - the reason for his A-Train moniker. He's also been on the ice killing penalties more than any other Ottawa Senator.
It's great to see the A-Train back on track.
Note: Volchenkov is one of 4 Sens D-men who are free agents at the end of the year. (He and Schubert are RFA while Phillips and Preissing are UFA.)

Slow Down

The Leafs scored a 4-2 win over the Islanders on the strength of continued strong goaltending and a first period three goal outburst. Andrew Raycroft looked strong in his return and Kyle Wellwood took a shot without having to be threatened with bodily harm.

Before sens fans start crowing about their revival, they have quite a lot of ground to make up:

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Fourth in the Northeast, wasn't that where the Leafs were supposed to be?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Who Needs Poppy McGroin?



Those do not include tonight's win, where he stopped 42 of 45 [!] shots.

Fools. His name is Ray.

Leafs v. Islanders: Battle of the Head Coaches

Tonight the Leafs host another team that is exceeding expectations on the back of a new head coach. Ted Nolan has the Islanders playing great hockey and can boast five wins in their last six road games. It is good to see the former Jack Adams winner back in the game after being blackballed by the NHL for (insert rumour here).

The Leafs welcomed Andrew Raycroft and Aleksander Suglobov back to the fold. After a terrible fight by Wade 'Encino Man' Belak against Cam 'I jump when I hit' Janssen, Sugar gets a chance to try to re-ignite a stagnant Leafs offence. The Soviet Bloc and Wellwood will be looking to turn their superiority (10 of 34 shots against New Jersey) into goals while the defence will be trying to maintain their excellent streak of play that has seen them concede only four goals in the past three games.

One of last year's games ended 9-6 for the Leafs. Anything approaching that sort of offence would be welcome for the Leafs as the calls of 'where are the goals going to come from?' have awoken after a period of slumber.

Fans

Guess which rink this is during the start of the 2nd period:
Why it's the Air Canada Centre....

PPP was there and snagged a couple of those empty Golds. I realize that most of these seats actually had people in them at some point during the game but, like the true fans that they are, they must have been studying game film in the Platinum Club:
Before, during, or after a game, guests can indulge in the many services the club has to offer, as the restaurant holds their table for the entire night. As a result, if fans want to have a leisurely dinner before the game, they can. Or, if they just want to enjoy a glass of wine and appetizer, return for their main course after the first period, and come back later for dessert and a port or liqueur, the staff at the Platinum Club will have everything taken care of.
And check out the stats - Ottawa is 2nd in the league with a 103.5% attendance capacity. The Leafs are way down there at number 3 with 103.2%
Make sure you look at it today as I think the Ottawa number will be dropping after tonight's game.

A run

First off - Grapes - it's way too late to call for Alfie to be traded. That's so 2-4 months ago.

The Sens play the Wild tonight who are on a bit of a slump after winning only 2 of their past 7. Afterwards, the team plays 10 games where only Carolina is more than 2 games over 0.500. A great chance to put up some Ws and get back in the top 8 in the East. We are only 5 pts behind Washington who sits 8th.

Or, another way of looking at it....

How many stretches like this are there? If they don't make up the ground they've lost then we're screwed!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Leafs v. Devils: Game Day Thoughts

The Leafs host a Devils team fresh off piling more doubt onto the mind of sens fans. J-S Aubin will get a chance to make amends for the 7-6 debacle that saw a potential rout turn into a painful loss. That game seemed to portend a dire future for the team but the Leafs responded by going 9-4-2 in the 15 games since.

The team will also be buoyed by the news that captain Mats Sundin will be making his return during the back-to-back games against the Bruins the 25th and 28th of November (hopefully the 25ht because I will be at that game).

Andrew Raycroft is targeting Monday's game against the Islanders for his return but in his stead Aubin has been stellar.

The Leafs will be looking to play the same type of game that they did in the first two periods against the Devils last time out. A hard, successful forecheck and plenty of traffic led the team to a 6-3 lead. As always, Patrick Elias and Brian Gionta will be the danger men for the team from Jersey. Chris McMurtry notes that Jamie Langenbrunner-Zach Parise-Travis Zajac formed a dangerous trio in the Devils triumph over the sens.

Coming off a middling performance against the Bruins Maurice will be looking for a much better showing from Kubina and the non-top line forwards. The Leafs had the Devils' number and hopefully tonight they can recapture it.

Sens - Sabres

Has there been a bigger regular season home game for the Sens in the past few years?

Melnyk spoke after the win in Buffalo about standing behind the management. How did the Sens respond? By putting 13 shot on Brodeur in the first two periods and getting behind 3-0.

Almost like they sent a message back, no?

If they haven't stopped playing for Murray and Muckler then you should expect to see one hell of a motivated team tonight. But shouldn't we have seen that last night?

I expect we'll see less than that. I think this team wants Murray fired.


UPDATE: Okay - maybe I'm wrong. 50 shots on the Sabres tonight. A big win to be sure.

Friday, November 17, 2006

ON A SILVER PLATTER

Here's a look at the Senators vs Leafs draft position for the first six years the Sens were in the league:

1992: Ott 2 - Tor 8
1993: Ott 1 - Tor 12
1994: Ott 3 - Tor 16
1995: Ott 1 - Tor 15
1996: Ott 1 - Tor 36
1997: Ott 12- Tor 57


That is FIVE years with a top three pick, and all they had to do to get that talent was be a terrible hockey team. So are the Sens the incredibly smart drafting team that Sens fans are claiming all over this forum, or does the fact they couldn't translate this string of good luck into playoff success actually prove otherwise?

*Of note: In 1999, Ottawa DID take Havlat in the 26th position. The best player in the first round by far and a stellar choice. The Leafs chose Luca Cereda in the 24th position that same year. He never made it to the NHL because of a heart condition.

El Diablo! Mos dios! El Diablo!!!

Sens fans sit with nervous anticipation of tonight's game against the Devils. The Devils had won 6 of 7 before Tuesday's collapse against the Rangers.

After last Friday's win against the Pens we thought the Sens had turned a corner but 2 losses quickly changed that. A win against Jersey tonight and there will be a good mood in the rink on Saturday night. A loss and the fans might be a little testy again. Such is life.

As Melnyk says:
What you’re seeing now is passion. The opposite, I would get very scared. If nobody cared, if nobody was screaming, if people weren’t calling into radio shows, if they weren’t sending e-mails, then I’d be worried.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leafs 1 v. Bruins 2 (OT): Early Reaction

Well, the Leafs looked just like a team that had not played since Saturday. They were fighting the puck, were a split second slow all night, and had numerous miscommunications.

On the bright side, J-S Aubin stole a point for the good guys with his amazing display. The top line of Antropov-Wellwood-Ponikarovsky gave the Bruins fits but they were not able to translate some good possession into goals. Pavel Kubina played pretty well considering his trans-Atlantic voyage to welcome Tereza into the world (read: not very well).

It is another point for the Leafs and will help them shake the rust off in anticipation of a busy stretch that sees 5 more games in the next 9 days starting with the Devils at home. The Devils will be coming off a hard game with the sens the night before, where they will be looking to avenge their 8-1 slaughter, and based on the performance tonight the Leafs will be coming off a hard practice.

"Kaberle for the Norris. The campaign begins now."

Right. And Peca for the Selke, Raycroft for the Vezina, and Maurice the Adams. The Muppet was correct - not enough for the Toronto media to write about.

Leafs v. Bruins: Game Day Thoughts

The Leafs return to Boston tonight to contest the second in a string of games that would make Bill Murray question his sanity. Of course, during the Leafs last visit our number 1 goalie pulled his groin during a 6-4 triumph and Andrew Raycroft remains in the press box where he shares wobbly pops with The Captain. JS Aubin will be handling the tending duties and he will have the Leafs newest father (congrats to Steen too) Pavel Kubina patrolling the front of the net. This will be only the fourth game in which the Leafs $20M defence will be together.


Keys to the Game
  • Goaltending: Last time out the Leafs got it and the Bruins, hilariously, did not. The Leafs managed to get outshot 17-10 in the first period but left with a 3-0 lead. Tim Thomas will probably get the start tonight and will try to improve on the team's horrendous 3.8GA/game.

  • Shooting: The Leafs would do well to pepper the net with shots. Considering that the Bruins are 28th in shots against at 33/game and Toronto is 1st in shots for at 35.1/game I expect it to resemble a shooting gallery.

  • Special Teams: It will be a battle of the nines as the ninth-ranked powerplay (Boston) will face the ninth-ranked penalty kill (Toronto). The Bruins won this battle last time going 2 for 5 but it was not enough. Clearly they will want to keep the PP off the ice (Discipline boys!) but they also have to ensure that Bostons speedsters like Patrice Bergeron and Phil Kessel are not able to isolate Hal Gill. He is great in the stationary penalty kill but I think the word 'lumbering' was invented to describe his skating. Kind of like 'shaky' was invented to describe Ottawa's goaltending.

  • Stepper-uppers: The Soviet Bloc will have to continue their strong play. Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky combined for 3 goals, 3 assists, and were +8 last Thursday. Both players used their size to torment the Bruins defence and Poni used his speed to create scoring chances. If both players continue their recent strong play then the Bruins will be hard pressed to find an answer as despite being the size of a sequoia Chara can only cover one player at a time.

Overall, if the Leafs can play their puck pressure game they should be in good shape. The Bruins defence is suspect past Ottawa Old Boy Zdeno Chara and the Bruins offence is top-line heavy. Boston is probably tired from chasing AO around the ice last night. If Tim Thomas is more Gerber than Raycroft then the Leafs should prevail.

No Lionel Hutz

Who is Sheldon Plener?

After listening to some people it sounded like Melnyk sent a money man to beat on Mlakar, Muckler, and Murray.

Well, from reading his bio, I think Plenner has a little more sports knowledge than you might have thought:
Today he is a Director, Secretary and an Alternate NHL Governor for the Ottawa Senators, and a Director and Secretary of Scotiabank Place. He is on the Board of Directors of St. Michael's Majors and is a Governor of the Ontario Hockey League representing St. Michael's Majors. He is also an authorized player representative for the Professional Lacrosse Players Association.

He was also the primary lawyer involved in negotiating the terms of the Toronto Raptors' Basketball Team expansion agreement with the NBA and was the Founding Secretary of the Raptors. Some of his other sports-related clients include Pat Quinn of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Glen Grunwald, formerly of the Toronto Raptors.

The Simple Case for the $3.7M Bench Sandbag

Can be made by debunking the Sunk Cost Fallacy:

In short, a sunk cost is an expenditure made in the past that cannot be modified. Neither now nor in the future. A sunk cost is a cost that cannot be recovered. The English language has a nice expression to describe it in plain words: "There is no use crying over spilled milk". The milk won't flow back into the saucer pan. Many people nevertheless behave as if there was a hope that the milk would go back where it was.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy is an informal logical fallacy in which it is argued that the amount of time, effort, or money already invested in a project justifies the investment of yet more time, effort and money in order to complete the project.
This is a fallacy because the actual economic calculation which needs to be made is whether the project would be worth completing at the cost of the investment which still remains to be made.
Following the dictates of the sunk cost fallacy is sometimes referred to by the curious phrase "throwing good money after bad".


Martin Gerber's $3.7 M contract is an expenditure that cannot be modified. Neither now nor in the future. It is strange to hear mild justifications for keeping him as the starter simply on account of the money already invested by the organization. That money will be sunk whether he plays lights out for 70 games or pops in and out of the lineup in a backup role (unless you seriously entertain the notion for a trade of essentially equal value at this point in the season).

Ray Emery has earned the right to be the number one tender. Gerber will be a quite sufficient backup. Forget the contractual albatross and go with the winner. Does it need to be anymore complicated than that?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Who Sleeps Most Soundly Tonight?

Sens 4 - Sabres 2

Muckler? Murray? Alfie? Spartacat?

I think Schaefer's twitchy reaction to the third goal sort of summed up the team's attitude after the horn went. Did the bullet really come that close to my head?

Room for improvement remains of course - although the PP got a couple of goals, there remains those disconcerting moments when a random glance at the clock is needed to confirm - holy shit - they've still got the man advantage! A need to respond to the Sabre's explosive speed seemed evident as well, with the exception of Fisher, Volchenkov and a few others at times - didn't they look like they just slept off a nasty jag on the couch? The overall game pace was fast, but everyone looks slow compared to Buffalo. Meszaros appeared to be as paralyzed by the blitz as he did last May.

Time to get a little shut eye and try not to let the hawkish gaze of Mean Gene Melnyk's right hand man intrude on your dreams.

NHL: Not As Dumb As They Look

The NHL has announced that they are partnering with YouTube to provide content on its own specialized channel. Apparently, someone in the league office reads blogs. In addition to highlights within 24 hours the NHL will provide "off-ice" content which I can only assume means some player profiles, team histories, and other features designed to build interest in the game.

This move is in stark contrast to the NFL who kicked down YouTube's doors, figuratively, to get footage removed. Added to the recent deal with Google this shows that the NHL is serious about becoming more accessible to fans.

No word yet on when highlight compilations of the sens-Leafs playoff series would be available.

His name is Ray

Emery gets the start tonight. Pressure?

Murray Watch

How much more water will Muckler allow on board before he does something? Is he going to sink for the sake of Bryan Murray?

I don't think so.

Bryan Murray's shortcomings in the post season are well known. In addition, before last year he hadn't coached a team into the playoffs for almost 15 years.

The time for patience is over.

Who should go behind the bench? You've got John Paddock there as an assistant. There are a few Sutters still around. Iron Mike might even be an option. Hitchcock?

Comments

We'll be moving over to a new commenting system over the next few days.
Wish me luck.

Leaf Nation in holding pattern

First off, thanks for bringing me and PPP on! He’s a bad cop, which means I will try and be the good cop, or er, a not-so-bad cop. We’ll see how it goes.

It’s a funny time in Leaf Nation, the first stretch where we don’t play 87 times in a week. Talk about anti-climatic. Scanning the news, it’s not surprising to find no real news on the Leafs. Kubina had a baby… Sundin lost his last few hair follicles… Darcy Tucker was spotted buying his own Kewl gear at Play It Again Sports… times are a little thin.

One bit of news: Raycroft will be out for a few more games. This shouldn’t be a worry. Aubin has collected 25 of his last available 30 points. Besides, you get the feeling the Leafs could win with Antropov in net. Maybe even Gerber.

A Real Battle

Hello, I am PPP. You might remember me from such posts as The Life of Bryan, Class Is In Session, and Forbes Doesn't Do Hockey. Thanks to everyone that voted myself and The Muppet as the new Leaf contributors. We'll do our best to add insult to injury, rub salt into open wounds, and kick the sens when they are down (it's all the rage now!).

In that spirit, let's take a look at the all-star ballots that were released today. Mirtle laments the inclusion of so many unworthy all-stars:
If you're looking for interesting and/or quirky names available for selection, there are a few. In the East, you get your pick of the injured (Henrik Tallinder, Wade Redden, Maxim Afinogenov, Mats Sundin), underperforming (Henrik Lundqvist, Alexei Zhitnik, Patrik Elias, Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Forsberg, Miroslav Satan), unknown (Brian Campbell, Alexei Zhitnik) or just plain washed up (Alexei Zhitnik). In the West, how about two (!) Coyotes, two Blues, two Blue Jackets and five Canucks?

The credibility of the all-star game is saved by the omission of one Martin Gerber. First Colbert and now Forlund, the Carolinas have produced some great satirists.

Note: Ninja pointed out that The Mad Hockey Blogger is creating a new statistic called HIQ. Check out the results for the Leafs. Hopefully, soon we'll have more concrete evidence that the sens just are not as good as the Leafs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Twins!

Jay and I are happy to welcome Pension Plan Puppets and The Muppet to the blog. They were the choices of the readers and their names rhyme.

I've booted the AWOL Leaf contributors - if they want to come back of course they simply need to let me know.

Welcome aboard!

Well, if they aren't going to fire the coach/GM...

David Johnson has looked into some potential dance partners for Muckler should he look to move our captain.

Reality check

"One year ago, the Senators owned a 19-3 record through their first 22 games. Since Dec. 1 of last year, they are 39-28-10 in the regular season or, in real terms, 39-38." Stevenson

The new benchmark

I heard this from Murray during the post game show:
"The guy gave up five goals and he gave us a chance to win the hockey game. That's the way I felt about it," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "That was as strong a game as he's played for us. He made huge stops in a couple of cases."
Yup - that stop he made on Plekanec's 84 ft wrister to stop the Habs from getting the backbreaking 6th goal was crucial. The team just couldn't follow his lead.

My new idea - have Murray coach Gerber in Binghamton where he can praise his 5 goals against performances. Give John Paddock the reigns - the guy at least won a couple of AHL championships. Melnyk can suck up Gerber's salary and Muckler can have the cap room to make a move.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Loud

Just before game time. A ton of Habs fans here - great atmosphere.

I'm 4 rows from the Sens blueline on the penalty box side. Someone up there likes me.


First period over: A lot of tension here. After Mtl scored the Gerber chants were started by the Hab fans - I think some Ottawa fans joined in.

Game over: The Sens come alive with a PP goal and then Gerber let's in a classic Lalimesque goal to kill the Sens. He was on his knees more than a kneeing kneer.
Christ.
Buffalo, Jersey, and Buffalo up next. 6-10-1 now. How much pain can Melnyk endure?

At the game

I'll be at tonight's game and if the Sens end up losing tonight I'll probably go through the range of thoughts that Eric Duhatschek does in this post:
If the Ottawa Senators’ slow start continues and they ultimately decide to make a change in the front office, who gets the chop first: GM John Muckler, or coach Bryan Murray?
....
Sometimes, sitting in the weeds, fighting adversity throughout the season, but eventually, finding your way is a recipe for playoff success. It hasn't worked the other way for Ottawa. Maybe this has been the secret plan all along - they just didn't bother telling anybody about it first.

"Ottawa is confusing"

Kaigorodov's interview back in Russia:
The obvious example is their goaltender, Gerber. He has been proven to be terrible in the first six matches. Eventually they tried the other goalie and they won a game, but in the following game they again put in the Swiss goalie and lost. Ottawa is confusing, they put in the young goalie and win, then put the Swiss one back in and lose again.
Sigh. Proven to be terrible. QED.

UPDATE: He's in net again tonight and Redden is out indefinitely.

New Leaf Member for the Battle of Ontario

So, I think we've got a good sample from the persons interested in joining in the fun here. Here are their posts:
What you dont want to see on the main / front page, and you only want to see on the item page
FiveO:
Let’s call it “The battle of the overpaid defenceman"
BoO Poll

Patrick:
The Leaf prospect pipeline

The Muppet:
Leafs defence now a thing of envy?
Where is Alfie?
Sundin dished off to Alfredsson!
The truth about Ottawa

The Mad Hockey Blogger:
Battle of Ontario Losing Steam?
Sens Going After Critics?

Pension Plan Puppets:
The Life of Bryan
Class Is In Session
Forbes' Doesn't Do Hockey

Can people send me a mail on who you think would be the best addition to the team.

Feeling badly for management?

Strange:
I was able to get an answer to the question on a lot of Senator fans’ minds. Is Melnyk’s patience with management running out? The answer to that, at least a day after the Atlanta collapse, was an emphatic no. In fact, when we sat down at Bert’s and talked hockey, he said he was feeling badly for management. And not at all in a “I feel badly for you because I’m about to fire you” sort of way of a “I feel badly for you because you deserve better” sort of way.

Sens Going After Critics?

It would appear that the Sens are feeling the heat, and apparently lashing out at the fan-base seems to be their recipe for fixing what ails them. This is of course speculation, and I am not implying any of this is true (down Sens lawyers, down!).

For a bemused Leafs fan, this does explain why a fool like Gord Wilson continues to collect a pay cheque. It is true that every organization out there employs their share of homers, but the Sens-sational sycophantic shilling abilities of the neophytes that report on the glorious team from Kanata have always seemed to push the limits.

For the record, I will gladly host the firemuckler.ca and firemurray.ca sites for free on a fast, U.S. based server out of the reaches of Mlakar and his henchmen.

If you run these sites, drop me a line.

(This post was written by The Mad Hockey Blogger. His second entry in the search for a new BoO Leaf member)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Open post for tonights games

Leafs - Habs should be a good one. Sens - Bruins has some potential but when they played two weeks ago it was brutal.

Friday, November 10, 2006

5-3 now

I can't take it!

GO SENS!

UPDATE: We schooled those pretenders! Bring on B-town.

The truth about Ottawa

These last two weeks we’ve heard it all regarding the Sens magnificent fall from grace.

Is it the PP?
Is it Muckler and Murray?
Is it because Alfredsson stopped eating Wheaties?

Thing is, Ottawa fans and the Sens themselves seem so focused on what’s wrong with them, that they have yet to figure out what’s changed everywhere else.

The NHL has collectively improved this year. Almost every team has armed themselves with a chance to win any given night. In the east, the Islanders, Habs, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington all have winning records so far this year. That’s five teams who have moved into the hunt that weren't there this time last year. It’s huge. We're talking about a tightly fought and vicious Eastern Conference where the 12th place team may be 4 points behind the 8th place team come May. One slip up and you’re gone.

While this is all happening right before their eyes, the Senators look to be standing around wondering why they aren't the best team in the east anymore? Guys like Jason Spezza, a player who has never known adversity or struggle (remember, he didn’t WANT to play for the Ice Dogs so he left for a better team), and everyone else seem unable to cope with the fact that every night isn’t the cakewalk of past Novembers. The reality check remains without a check.
Its like watching a rich person lose their fortune but still refusing to admit they must toil with the regular folk.
And while the entitlement is gone, the sense of entitlement looks to be dying a slower death.

So when will things turn around for the Sens? When will this still heavily talented team get their act together and start winning games?

I’ll tell you: When they finally realize that they are no better than any team out there and start clawing and fighting and battling like there is no tomorrow, like there are no easy minutes, and like they really want it.
That’s when.

But hey, keep blaming it on the Powerplay. I’m just one opinion.

(This post was written by The Muppet. His fourth entry in the search for a new BoO Leaf member)