Friday, September 30, 2005

More good news for Leaf fans

From The Star:
Toronto will likely face the dynamic Senators with a top four defence consisting of Bryan McCabe — back in town after the birth of his daughter Wednesday — Tomas Kaberle, Alex Khavanov and Aki Berg. Colaiacovo and Wade Belak would likely round out the blue line.

The downside is that when you have this many Norris contenders on one team the votes tend to get split.

Khavanov and Berg are the number 3 and 4 defencemen on opening night! Is Belfour going to see more shots than Luongo did last year?

Good News For Leafs Fans

Posted by the Meatriarchy

Sports Illustrated (that oracle of hockey expertise) has its Leafs preview up and they don't like the team one bit.

Specifically the Goalie is too old, the defense are a bunch of obstructionists that won't be able to adjust to the new rules and the forwards are slow and injury prone.

Why is this good news for Leafs fans? Because Sports Illustrated has consistently underrated the team in recent years. I seem to remember the year they went to the final four against Carolina SI rated them 15th in the league (behind LA whom they ranked 10th!).

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Special Teams Effectiveness

I have taken a look at the Power Play and Penalty Kills numbers from the 2003/2004 to help better define my new NHL statistic - Special Teams Effectiveness. It is defined as PPGF+SHGF-PPGA-SGHGA (and if you don't know what those acronyms are you don't care about hockey anyway). Here is how the teams rank. (standard method in brackets)

1) DET 31 (1)
2) TBL 24 (13)
3) OTT 21 (2)
4) NJD 15 (11)
5) NSH 14 (23)
6) TOR 11 (5)
7) PHI 11 (3)
8) COL 9 (3)
9) SJS 9 (10)
10) NYI 8 (9)
11) CGY 7 (17)
12) ATL 6 (17)
13) ANA 3 (7)
14) BUF 3 (15)
15) VAN 3 (14)
16) MIN 2 (24)
17) DAL 2 (11)
18) STL 0 (8)
19) MTL -1 (19)
20) CBJ -1 (20)
21) FLA -4 (6)
22) LAK -10 (27)
23) WSH -12 (16)
24) BOS -13 (20)
25) CHI -17 (22)
26) EDM -17 (28)
27) PHX -19 (25)
28) CAR -25 (30)
29) PIT -27 (26)
30) NYR -36 (29)

Does it surprise anybody that Detroit, Tampa Bay and Ottawa are the top three tops in the stat? And notice the huge jump that Tampa Bay makes over the percentage technique. That and Florida is nowhere as good as the percentage technique would have you believe.
posted by Greg Staples

Marchment Out?

Posted by The Meatriarchy
TSN is reporting that the Leafs have cut Bryan Marchment. However Howard Berger of The Fan 590 reports that Pat Quinn denied that was the case. We'll see who is correct.

Meantime Eklund says that the Leafs are trying to acquire a goalie and have talked to Buffalo (who is laden with talented netminders) because apparently they aren't happy with any of their backup options.

He is also reporting that the Leafs are talking to Boston about Boynton.

His posts aren't archived unless you pay so here is the gist of it:

I talked just now to a source in Toronto who said that the Leafs are very much in the market for a new goalie and have contacted Buffalo for Noronen. My source, who does not write a blog on this site, added, "I talked to someone inside the Leafs who told me to tell you that he would be shocked if the Goalie situation doesn`t change drastically by October 5th." They have also contacted Boston in regards to Boynton.

"Anna Kournikova" + "Senators Jersey"

(pic found via our friend Chris at Hockey Country)

Hey, I got us a Sitemeter, now let's get that thing purring like a kitten.

Oh, and uh the Sens are like, 5-0 and Spezza, Heatley and Bochenski have a sickening 28 points between the three of them. Yes, Leaf Fan, playoffs aren't until April, but this blog was not set up to lay dormant for seven months while these boys light it up.

The New Defense

Posted by The Meatriarchy

Watching the Sens-Sabres game last night on The NHL Network I was struck by a new tactic being employed by players who are, no doubt, terrified to make any physical contact with an opponent for fear he fall down and a penalty be assessed.

Players now stay close to the man they are covering and at the last minute try to lift his stick just as the puck is coming his way.

In the new obstruction free NHL this may become the only thing defensemen can do in front of their own net now that they aren't permitted to clobber a guy who is standing in front awaiting the puck.

I would imagine that Brad Park who was famous for his "play the man" style and who authored a book under the same name would be somewhat chagrined at this turn of events.

I guess in the new league "stickwork" will take on a whole new meaning.

Sidenote: who is the announcer who calls the Buffalo games on MSG? He is worse than Jiggs McDonald. If the NHL is serious about getting fans in America they really have to up the quality of their broadcasters. I always feel like I am watching a Junior A game when I see an American network broadcast hockey.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Eastern Conference Prediction

I'll start off by thanking Jay for inviting me to the BoO blog.

To preface my predictions, let me say that the Sens will win 6 of the 8 meetings with the Leafs this year. At least.

The conference standings will end up like this:

1. Philadelphia - only beating out Ottawa by benefiting from a weaker division
2. Ottawa
3. Tampa Bay - there will be a sizable drop off in points after these top three teams
4. Boston
5. New Jersey
6. Montreal
7. Atlanta
8. Pittsburgh
9. Toronto
10. NY Islanders
11. Florida
12. Carolina
13. Buffalo
14. NY Rangers
15. Washington

Positions 4 through 8 will be very close - a couple of points separating the five teams.

I could be wrong about the Leafs. They might not be that high if Belfour doesn't keep them in a lot of games.

Of course the Senators will be the Eastern Conference representative in the finals and Daniel Alfredsson will be in the lead car on Bank St. in June.

And the last prediction: Leafs fans will hold their heads high in this province next summer living with the knowledge that the Senators still didn't beat them in the playoffs.


O.K., I will be honest. I didn't watch much of the Leafs-Sabres game last night. As per usual, the Meatman provides a better review than I could anyway.

Instead I will use this inaugural post to complain about my least favourite hockey statistic. With the increase in penalties this year, this stat could bug me even more. The statistic in question? Power Play Percentage. I can't think of a more useless statistic. It begins to tell a story that needs to be told but it could be told so much simpler. What is more important to a team, what percentage of time they score a power play goal or the absolute number of power play goals that they have?

Currently the NHL ranks power play proficiency based on the percentage. But if you are time that draws more penalties but scores on the PP less frequently, you can score more PP goals but be ranked lower. This is nonsense. The currency of an NHL game is goals. Statistics should be measured in this currency, not in a percentage.

It is said that if you add up a teams PP and PK percentages and you get to 100 you have good special teams. Again, nonsense. You have good special teams if you subtract the number of goals given up on the penalty kill from goals scored on the power play and you have a positive number. The teams with the best differential has the best special teams. Period.

End of rant.

Sabres 5 Leafs 2 (exhibition)

By The Meatriarchy.

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs would have experienced an odd feeling of deja vu watching last night's game. In any season as far back as most of us can remember but particularly in the last 5-10 years the Leafs have always had games like this. Usually they happen in February when the season is at it's longest and the playoffs seem very far away. The Leafs go out and attempt to mail one in against a supposedly weaker team and look generally disinterested in the whole affair. Usually the team is Buffalo who despite having missed the playoffs for the past 4 years always looks like a worldbeater when they meet the Leafs. Well, some would say that the Leafs allow them to look like worldbeaters.

So it was last night that Sundin, Belfour and Khavanov plus an assortment of career fourth liners and seventh defensemen looked listless in a 5-2 loss to the Sabres. It is the Leafs third loss in three games in which they have been outscored 15-8.

This was the first time in the pre-season that Belfour looked ordinary although to be fair to Eddie the Leafs took 12 penalties and were down two men for two of the Sabres goals.

The defense core last night consisted mostly of players vying for the 6th spot on the blue line: Belak, Marchment, Wozniewski, and Kronwall, with regulars Khavanov and Berg rounding out the group. Unfortunately none of the four bubble players made a great case for them staying in camp. If I was Quinn I would send Kronwall and Wozniewski straight to the Marlies this morning. Kronwall has good potential but he has not looked good in the last few games he has played and keeping him around doesn't help him or the team. Wozniewski has impressed but unless you are giving Belak or Marchment the boot (not a bad option) he should be sharing a cab with Kronwall to the Ricoh center.

As for Belak and Marchment - it is in my mind a fairly easy decision. Keep Marchment. Unless Domi is going to be traded we have no need for another tough guy on this team. Especially with Perrott and Brown (who is a better 6th defenseman than Belak) hanging around.

Belak did give us the highlight of the night however. He managed to fight a Sabre while his sweater was pulled over his head - and he won the fight all the while looking like a giant stocking cap (or as you say here on the Mainland "touque").

And speaking of Perrott he and his fourth line bretheren - Wilm and Kilger don't deserve a spot on this team. If the league continues to call the obstruction penalties the way they have there is going to be no room for a grinder line made up of slow footed checkers. And by checkers I mean obstruction junkies. Gone are the days (I fervently hope) when lousy players could make up for their lack of skill by "positional play" which meant interfering with the player who doesn't have the puck and holding him up so he can't get into the zone or into open ice. So what do we need to keep players like this around for?

Better to give the speedy yongsters like Wellwood and Steen a chance. Besides Wilm has to be one of the creepiest looking guys around. He looks just like a homeless guy I used to see all the time when I lived downtown years ago. If you are going to have useless players on your team you might was well make them esthetically pleasing to the eye.

As in the game against Montreal on Saturday the penalty calls were a little odd to say the least. Mats Sundin who seems to be making a bid for the title of "Swedish Gordie Howe" delivered an elbow to a Sabre player and was assessed a penalty. No argument there. Then once the whistle was blown he was crosschecked to the ice by another Sabre who wasn't given a penalty. Belak then engaged the offender in a fight and was given 5 for fighting plus an instigator!

During the Habs-Leafs game on Saturday a Mtl player merely waved his stick at a Leafs hands and was given a slashing penalty. Last night Maxim Afinogenov tried to break his stick across Aki Bergs hands and the referees blithely ignored it. This morning on The Fan 590 (which proudly bills itself as "Toronto's Hockey Station!!!" even though they don't broadcast hockey and rarely talk about it) played a clip of Sundin complaining about the aforementioned penalty discrepancy and accused him of "whining".

Not to be outdone Damian Cox of the Toronto Star (who has never written a positive piece about the most popular sports team in Toronto if not the country) descended from on high to deliver the following pronouncement:

But the Leafs, winners of two-of-six exhibition contests thus far, have really seen little in the way of truly encouraging news so far outside of the obviously smart Alex Steen, shifty Kyle Wellwood and impressive young goaltender J.F. Racine.

And the kids always look Gabe Gross good in the fall.

Right. Rookies who look good in exhibition are not always that good during regular season. I agree. But the team they played was also staffed with rookies. Doesn't it make sense to assume that the Buffalo team will probably not look so good in December while a more veteran team like the Leafs will look better?

Not to be outdone his fellow writer from the Bolshevik Rag Toronto Star Mark Zwolinski had this to say:

The Leafs have spent the bulk of their training camp waiting for regulars to get healthy and painstakingly evaluating young hopefuls against Thomas and fellow veteran Bryan Marchment.

By contrast, teams like Ottawa and Buffalo have used mostly set lineups and appear to have left the Leafs in the ice chips in terms of preparation for the regular season.

If the Leafs had gone with a set line-up of regular season vets the same media types would be complaining that Quinn wasn't using the training camp to evaluate rookies.

Remember this is exhibition - a time when you are supposed to be evaluating fringe and rookie players. If other teams ice their regular season line up you are going to lose games. The leafs have consistently gone with a 50/50 mix throughout all the games and have done well against teams who have done the same. Last night they were without Allison, Lindros, O'Neil, Tucker, Kaberle, McCabe and Klee. Anyone willing to bet their house that the Sabres win this game with those seven in the lineup? Fact is the Leafs have only looked poor when the opposition has stacked their side with 90% of their regulars. I would say that makes a better case for the Leafs overall than some people are willing to admit.

But only if they lose the fourth liners.

Especially the ugly ones.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Let's Get It Started

Welcome to the Battle of Ontario's 2005 / 2006 installment.

A friendly face-wash to our inspiration, Battle of Alberta, where sacamano and Matt are representin' North and South, respectively.

Here are the dates to mark on your calendar (all times eastern):

Wednesday, Oct. 5: Ottawa at Toronto, 7 p.m (TSN)
Monday, Oct. 10: Toronto at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m (SNET)
Saturday, Oct. 29: Ottawa at Toronto, 7 p.m (CBC)
Saturday, Dec. 17: Toronto at Ottawa, 7 p.m (CBC)
Saturday, Jan. 21: Toronto at Ottawa, 7 p.m (CBC)
Monday, Jan. 23: Toronto at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m (SNET)
Saturday, March 4: Ottawa at Toronto, 7 p.m (CBC)
Saturday, April 15: Ottawa at Toronto, 7 p.m (CBC)

Leaf fans living in their parent's basement sans tv access can listen live on AM 640. Sens fans are, of course, used to muting the disgraceful Leaf-homer tandem of Bob Cole and Harry Neale and turning up broadcasts from the Team 1200 instead.