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.