Monday, February 27, 2006

I didn't start it

I was going to let the truce stand until at least tomorrow when NHL action resumed but since the Meatman started it I better return fire.

Looking at the schedule, it seems the Senators have the first week to get back into game shape. They play games against Pens and Caps on Wednesday and Thursday and then get to pad their stats when they play the last of the non-playoff teams on Saturday night.
The opposition that night, the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs who are led by the disgraced Pat Quinn, will be relying heavily on Bryan McCabe to turn his game around after a horrendous Olympics. After being selected for his offensive abilities, particularly on the powerplay, McCabe failed to garner a point and proved to be a defensive liability with a team worst plus/minus and spending the most time of any Canadian in the penalty box.
Fans of the Leafs will be wondering why aging captain Mats Sundin was able to put forth a solid effort for the gold medal winning Swedes in the midst of a mediocre Leaf campaign.
Fortunately for the team from Hogtown, they now have confirmation that Tellqvist is world class. Unfortunately, Quinn will stick with the ineffective Ed "I'll give you a BILLION dollars" Belfour while their playoff hopes become more and more distant.

For the gold medal winning captain of the Senators, Alfie looks to continue his stellar MVP season. The Senators sent a very large contingent to Italy including six defencemen and expectedly, they didn't all come back healthy. The resilient Dominik Hasek will nurse the effects of his injury giving Ray Emery some much needed work. These three games against the lesser clubs in the NHL are a blessing for those players coming back from Torino and for Emery.

It's good to be back.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Leafs Win Olympic Battle of Ontario.

Congratulations to team Sweden. Perhaps this victory will give Mats some jump now?

Leaf Medal winners:

Mats Sundin (gold)
Mikael Tellqvist (gold)

Aki Berg (yes Aki Berg!) (silver)

Tomas Kaberle (Bronze)

Senators Medal Winners:

Daniel Alfredsson (gold)
Dominik Hasek (bronze) - does he get a medal? He did leave early after all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Is this the end for Quinn?

By The Meatriarchy

Before the break there were some rumblings that Pat Quinn's job was in serious jeopardy in Toronto. However a lot of people said that it would be suicide on JFJ's part to fire Quinn and have him go to Torino and win a gold medal.

Well that didn't happen.

And you know what struck me as a Leaf's fan? This Canadian team looked an awful lot like this year's Leafs. Namely uninterested, unfocused and not playing as a team. Oh and relying on a hot goalie to bail them out. Sound familiar?

So has Quinn finally lost it?

I am a huge fan of Pat's and have always dismissed talk of firing him which has cropped up in the media every year that he has been here and the Leafs hit a bad patch. In fact it is no secret that the Toronto media hates him. Some have flat out admitted it in their columns and on the air on various radio stations.

However a stopped watch is right twice a day and it could be that the stopped watches of the Toronto sports media are closer to being right this year than they have for the past five or six.

I was hoping that the performance of Team Canada would silence Quinn's critics - although if that had happened they would have fluidly moved the criticism to JFJ's inability to build the right team for Quinn. Or they would have said that anyone could have won with this team.

But the other question is: How could you have lost so badly with this team?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

OK, Now who do we cheer for?

By The Meatriarchy

First of all that was a pretty decent game. I would love to see a 7 game series between the Canadian and Russian teams. It would be hockey at its finest.

Perhaps a reprise of the 72 series is in order.

Now the question: Who do I want to win the gold medal?

Not the Czechs because, well. I still haven't forgotten Nagano

Not the Russians because, well, their the Russians!

Slovakia? With Zdeno Chara and Satan? Forget it!

Finland? Not a bad one. Plus Finland came second in the World Cup so they are definitely a contender. And they have the coolest names.

Sweden? I love the look of this team. But they have Alfredsson. Then again they also have Sudnin and Tellqvist. Hmm

Finland or Sweden and I would be happy.

I guess.


By The Meatriarchy.

The professional sports journalists in Toronto haven't been exactly optimistic today regarding Canada's chances to beat the Russian team.

It is a game that might be too close to call but if you were to listen to Howard Berger of The Fan 590 or Bill Watters of Leafs Lunch today we might as well pack up and go home now.

Berger basically said he hopes Canada loses this morning on the radio claiming that if we win the next two games because of outstanding goaltending it would be a "cop out". His entire premise being that Canada has looked so poor in the preliminaries that we have to depend on superior goaltending to cover up just how bad this team is.

He then went on to say without missing a beat and without a trace of irony that he had spoken to Jaromir Jagr yesterday who told him that the preliminary games were a complete waste of time. To which Howard seemed to be in enthusiastic agreement. Gee you'd think this guy was covering the Leafs or something.

Bill Watters meantime is in full blown hysteria over the poor selection of Team Canada claiming that rookie Dion Phaneuf should have been on the team (but he somehow doesn't think Sydney Crosby should be) and that Brian McCabe shouldn't because of his lack of international experience. Which I assume that Phaneuf has in spades??

Also coming for heavy criticism has been the choice of Bertuzzi over aging winger Brendan Shanahan.

But the biggest problem for Team Canada according to the Leaf's lunch crew? That the Russian's top scorer is Evgeny Malkin who they took great pains to tell us "doesn't even play in the NHL!!".

And to refresh your memory Malkin played in the World Juniors and completely folded under the physical play of the Canadians.

Look the winner of this game will most likely win the gold medal. So unless Canada gets blown out it isn't a complete disaster. But please lets leave the Monday morning quarterbacking till tomorrow (which is Thursday I know).

Anyone else feel like calling in sick today?

All the quarterfinals are today - here are my predicitons:

Quarterfinal - Switzerland vs. Sweden - 10:30am et
Sweden. 'Nuff said.

Quarterfinal - Finland vs. United States - 11:30am et
I'm predicting the US will 'upset' the Finns. The US played the Russians well yesterday in a physical game while the Finns will have lost some of their earlier edge and will be less comfortable as the favourite.
If it goes to a shootout - NHL ranking:
RK Goalie Team W L SA GA Sv %
6 RICK DIPIETRO NYI 4 3 27 8 .704
25 ANTERO NIITTYMAKI PHI 2 4 20 9 .550

Quarterfinal - Russia vs. Canada - 2:30pm et
I'm scared.
When I look at the Russian team two things stick out - the skill up front and the names of their defence. Russia let in 5 goals against Slovakia and 4 against the US. They also scored 5 against both the Swedes and the US.
Canada will win.
If it goes to a shootout - NHL ranking:
RK Goalie Team W L SA GA Sv %
2 MARTIN BRODEUR NJD 5 1 23 3 .870
68 EVGENI NABOKOV SJS 0 4 13 8 .385

Quarterfinal - Slovakia vs. Czech Republic - 3:30pm et
Slovakia will take it for these reasons - surprisingly better goaltending in this tournament, better top line with Gaborik, Hossa, and Demitra, and the Chara/Meszaros tandem can keep Jagr's damage somewhat limited.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Turin Tongue Twisters

Not only do the players have to get used to a lot of different things in the Olympics (ice surface, new teamates) but how about the play-by-play announcers who have to learn a whole raft of diffcult names for TV broadcast?

Here is my all star team of difficult to pronounce (or just plain cool sounding) names:

Goaltender Milan Hnilicka Czech Republic
Goaltender Gunther Hell Italy (ok his name just sounds cool)
Goaltender Edgars Masalskis Latvia

Defense Sascha Goc Germany
Defense Lasse Kopitz Germany
Defense Artyom Argokov Kazakhstan
Defense Karlis Skrastins Latvia
Defense Atvars Tribuncovs Latvia
Defense Milan Jurcina Slovakia
Defense Daniel Tjarnqvist Sweden
Defense Severin Blindenbacher Switzerland

Forward Flavien Conne Switzerland
Forward Rostislav Olesz Czech Republic
Forward Antti Laaksonen Finland
Forward Petr Fical Germany
Forward Lucio Topatigh Italy
Forward Dmitriy Upper Kazakhstan
Forward Andrey Pchelyakov Kazakhstan
Forward Girts Ankipans Latvia
Forward Aigars Cipruss Latvia
Forward Grigorijs Pantelejevs
Forward Lubos Bartecko Slovakia

Thursday, February 16, 2006

All Together Now... Hasek Inured In Olympic Opener

UPDATE: It's an adductor injury, or a fancy name for groin strain.

UPDATE 2: Following the train of thought here, I'd like to point out the German Women's goaltending tandem has a better save percentage than Ray Emery. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Doing the little things...

Saw this on the CBC site:
Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek made it safely to Turin, Italy, but his equipment didn't fare as well.
"Oh, I had some problems," the Ottawa Senators goaltender said Monday. "I don't know where it is. It's travelling somewhere in Washington, I believe."
Scott Allegrino - just a small contributor to Team Canada.

Ottawa's Bruce 'The Rumour' Garrioch did what he could as well:
There was just one problem: The cabbie didn't know where it was. Instead, Chara walked into the breakfast room at the Media Village Mortara and started looking for directions.
"This cabbie is completely lost. He has no idea where he's going," said a frustrated Chara.
I conveniently didn't tell him he had at least another 30 minutes in the cab waiting for him.
If Chara's not on the ice for Slovakia today, we'll know there's big trouble.

Nice job Brucie!

Monday, February 13, 2006

About that truce request...

Wouldn't have anything to do with this would it?

Just to be clear - I'm not actually breaking the truce. Simply suggesting a discussion about the truce itself.

Go McCabe and Quinn!

Truce and Rumours.

By The Meatriarchy

What with the Olympic break upon us I am calling for a truce amongst the protagonists in the Battle of Ontario.

I will be cheering for Heatley and Redden as they play for our country, and I am sure the rest of you will be cheering just as hard for McCabe and Quinn to help bring home the gold.

In the meantime is Almo coming back to Toronto? I had a gut feel about this last week and now it has propped up as a rumour. It would be a cheap pickup more or less but does he bring anything more to the table than O'Neill or Czerkawski at this point?

Oh and the rumours of Arnason to Toronto for Andropov make no sense to me. We are short a top line winger, defenseman and on some nights a goalie. Adding another center doesn't make sense unless there is another trade in the works.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Battle of the Banners

I have no idea how this appears to our readers (a quick lunchtime job thrown together on Corel Draw 8.0) but if you have any suggestions fire away in the comments.

Of course this is in response to those keeners out west, but as a humbling gesture you'll note that I was unable to locate any colour photography with which to commemorate past victories. Rest assured this matter will be rectified in short order.

Well At Least It Wasn't Close! Jagr Leads Rangers To Rout of Senators

Sens are fast becoming second half chumps (Columbus, Boston and St. Louis all have more points in their last ten) and the "Your Call" vultures are circling. Probably the best thing to come out of last night's game is Spezza having his bell rung - let's hope when he comes out of it he remembers he's not in Bingo anymore.

Tonight Hossa will once again look to get inside the heads of The Trade's second-guessers. Heatley was totally bitch-slapped in their last matchup and is going to need a Pierre Maguire Monster Performance (goose eggs in his last three). Two of the top five scoring teams in the league so you regional A-Channel viewers should be in for a good show. If these Thrashers ever straighten themselves out defensively they'll easily be one of the top eight teams in the east.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Leafs Go For Gold

If, like my co-blogger Meatriarchy, you caught the third period of last nights game, you would have had the rare opportunity to observe the less appreciated members of Toronto's Turin hopeful. While Antropov, Kaberle, Berg, Sundin and Tellqvuist are part of the team's international presence, Canada will be well represented by Brian McCabe in the 400 m Can Opener...

...and Darcy Tucker in Interpretive Diving

Do us proud, lads!

Leafs 4 Thrashers 1

By The Meatriarchy

Despite the precarious hold on eighth place the Leafs have certainly played better over the past 6 games. Since the overtime loss to Montreal they have had points in all but one of those 6 matches and 8 out of a possible 12 points. Including the two badly needed victories over New Jersey and Atlanta.

The resurgence of Belfour as a decent netminder again has been the real key. That and the return of McCabe and the solid play of the AHL call ups have all combined to give the Leafs a more competitive on ice product.

And has Ponikarovsky finally made believers of all the skeptics? This guy has been one of the better players for the team all year.

The question mark right now is Jeff O'Neill. I would have thought Quinn would play him last night since he has done so well against Atlanta in the previous games. But nope, he didn't dress for the second straight game.

Two possibilities here. Quinn has finally grown exasperated with O'Neils indifferent play and is sending a message to him. Or O'Neill still has a nagging shoulder injury and they are letting him sit out this week to combine with the Olympic break and hopefully give him some healing time.

BTW has Aki Berg redeemed himself finally? He is a better defensman than most of us give him credit for.

In another story apparently some former players bet on football (which we all know that no one does).

Monday, February 06, 2006

Non-Sequitur Award

Don Brennan in today's Sun:

The odds of Ottawa being in a shootout tonight would appear to be small, with the lowly Pittsburgh Penguins in town, but there are also a number of reasons to believe the conference cellar dwellers could make things uncomfortable for the Senators.

For one, Sidney Crosby will be back in the lineup and making his first regular-season appearance in the capital. The rookie sensation missed last Wednesday's meeting between the teams in Steeltown with the flu, a game Ottawa won 7-2.

Teams that are out of the playoff race are expected to pull off a few surprises in the ensuing weeks, however, as their guys are either playing for a new contract or hoping to catch the eye of a contending club looking to bulk up before the trade deadline.

As well, teams coming off a road trip, as the Senators are, often suffer letdowns in their first game back home. And the Senators are in no position to take anyone for granted these days.

Never before has it been more evident they really could use the help of an Olli Jokinen, the star centre of the Florida Panthers it's believed the Senators covet.

So Sidney Crosby is back in the lineup
...and sometimes teams aren't in top shape when they come off a road trip therefore we need to trade for Olli Jokinen[?]

This wraps up a column beginning with the Sens lack of success in the shootout (which will be not be a factor whatsoever during the playoffs) and praise for wiz Jussi Jokinen.

Needless to say, I'm thoroughly unconvinced that the lack of an Olli Jokinen is the reason this team has been leaving a vexing amount of points on the table in close games, but I'd appreciate it if someone could fill in the missing thought sequence in Brennan's column.

Week before Turino

It's a busy week for the teams heading into the Olympic break....

Feb 6 2006, Mon HOME Penguins
Feb 8 2006, Wed AWAY Rangers
Feb 9 2006, Thu HOME Thrashers
Feb 11 2006, Sat HOME Flyers

Feb 7 2006, Tue HOME Thrashers
Feb 10 2006, Fri AWAY Rangers
Feb 11 2006, Sat HOME Rangers


Thursday, February 02, 2006

That's better

Not that I was worried when we were down 2-0.

With three tonight, the Sens have 17 SHG. Alfredsson with three points moves past Thornton into 2nd place.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Question for the Toronto Sports Media

By The Meatriarchy

Consider this quote from your media brother Damian Cox in today's Star:

You'd have thought, for starters, that the Big Three of the Tampa Bay Lightning — Brad Richards, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis — would feast on three greenhorns playing defence for the Maple Leafs, particularly with one of them, Andy Wozniewski, logging more than 22 minutes of ice time.Didn't happen.Instead, the Leaf kiddie corps — Wozniewski, Staffan Kronwall and Jay Harrison — played mistake-free, poised hockey for the most part against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Wozniewski stared down the jitterbuggish St. Louis on a solo rush late in the third, and Harrison was on the ice in the final seconds of regulation and acquitted himself quite capably.

Couldn't have put it better myself. Ok, the column wasn't so much about the rookied defensemen as an excuse for Cox to go after Brian McCabe. But the fact is the young d-men have played tremendously since being called up and that doesn't include Carlo Colaiacovo who is injured. In addition two other strong prospects Brendan Bell and Ian white are playing for the Marlies and waiting their chance.

So Toronto Sports Media here is the question.

How does the plethora of strong defensive talent in the Leafs system square with your perception of the team (if you are unsure of your perception read your columns from last week)?

Specifically how could a team run by the evil penny pinching Richard Petty have acquired such a surplus of defensive talent since Richard the Evil went out and searched the cosmos for the worst GM he could find and told him not to worry about the farm team because the Leafs "never have any decent draft picks". Then the completely inept GM and Petty conspired to make sure that the Leafs regular roster defensement all got hurt so that the young players would cause the team to look even worse. This is all part of the master plan to see just how bad a team can be and still make money. Right? Right?

And then they told the stupid coach (who is only smart enough to coach Canada's Olympic team - but we know that isn't a real coaching position) "hey make sure you play all those rookies in key situations like pk and the last minutes of the game" and the coach said "yes masters" because he is not a coach at all but some kind of robot that only exists to yell at referees. Not like that nice boy Wayne Gretsky who is always polite and never gets mad when a penalty is called on his team.

You guys sure called it.