Raking Leafs

Mixing metaphors and casting cliches about hockey and the Maple Leafs for the ether's pleasure since MCMLXVII.

11/06/2006

Leafs blow by Sabres

TOR vs BUF 11/04/06


Leaf Lines
Bates-Peca-Tucker
Poni-Sundin-Wellwood
Steen-Stajan-O'Neill
Kilger-Pohl-Antro

Leaf Pairs
Gill-White
Kaberle-McCabe
Bell-Belak

Raycroft

Check hockey-recap for combo TOI

Wow! I was prepared for a better effort than what we saw against the Panthers, but I definitely didn't think the Leafs would have enough to disrupt the Sabres' offense, both even strength and on the powerplay. And I certainly didn't expect the Leafs to generate so much offense, at regular strength, on the powerplay, and even the penalty kill. True, not shorties were scored, but the Leafs haven't had that many chances a man down this season, except for maybe two games. But, in fairness to the current class-team of the league, Buffalo didn't play a good game, and the Leafs were on a mission. But I'm still thrilled. Wow! Just Wow!

As both sides of the aisle have noted, I have to acknowledge the fact that Tucker and Poni tried a bit too hard to get the ref's attention, but I think Campbell's lutz at the blue line was the worst offense. And speaking of penalties, though McCabe's stick was lodged in Briere's skate, from the replay it looked more like Daniel inserted the stick into his skate, rather than Bryan jabbing at Daniel's feet. Which is neither here nor there, and such DNA evidence is impossible to ignore, but I'm just saying I sympathize with McCabe on this one.

Wellwood regained some of his earlier season form, and looked much more confident on the puck, and much more desperate on the forecheck. His simple lofted puck to the net from the half boards was perfect for Sundin to re-direct past Miller, who just seconds earlier had gained inside position on Teppo "I'm only 38" Numminen which Kyle undoubtedly noticed. Wellwood's near-elusion of Jaroslav "Sissy" Spacek at center that felled the prized FA was both a scary and proud moment. Scary because I feared first for Welly, then for Spacek. He is old, and I thought he had broken his hip. Proud because #42 stood up for himself and dished some punishment rather than just take it.



Another super performance came from unofficial sophmore Ian "Whitey" White. Saturday could be considered his best game of the season, as he played through pain and excelled in a high pressure "must win" game. Just as a general observation, White's shot from the point gets through and finds the target almost 95% of the time. Yes, that is an arbitrary made-up stat, but the guy almost never has his shot blocked or misses the net. Can't say the same for other defensemen on this team. His best play came while joining the rush and contributing with a beauty primary assist to Sundin on the fourth Leaf goal; an early candidate for Leafs goal of the year. It was an odd-man rush (2 on 3) lead by Sundin and Poni. White filled the gap then fed a pass to Sundin at the left post who roofed a shot over Miller's right shoulder. Miller played it extremely well, but Sundin's shot was even better.

Evidently, White likes to play against Buffalo as his best game of last season also came against the NY Snowbelters in which he scored his first NHL goal. The Leafs will need more Sabre-killers if they are to make an impression on the league this year.

The "third" line of Steen-Stajan-O'Neill also had a great game, contributing on the score sheet with a great quick-stick goal off the cycle by Jeff O'Neill (even in the slo-mo replay, the release looked lightning quick), as well as creating off the rush and putting the Sabres into difficult situations that resulted in a whistle or two. One hustle play by Steen in particular was remarkable, as he muscled his way into position in the center of the ice on the rush and forced a hook even though he hadn't received the puck. I think it was Paetsch, who is logging top 6 minutes due to Tallinder's injury, though I'm not sure.

Tucker scored from his office again. I'd like to see him rip his slapper from the right half boards on the power play a bit more often, because the cross-crease pass won't work in January and February, and that is where the majority of power play production is coming from. Toronto has 13 PPG, and Tucker has 8 of them from the right post.

The PK was masterful, and full marks go to Peca and Kilger, as well as Raycroft, and White & Gill. The Sabres were a special teams juggernaut last year, and to pitch the PK shut out is phenomenal. Of course, the PK has been getting it done for most of the young season and is now tenth in the league with 86.6% efficiency. And another lesser known stat that bears mentioning is that the Leafs are one of the least penalized teams so far this season, incurring only 200 PIMS. This is a huge improvement from the undisciplined play of the past few Quinn coached teams. Maurice may not have the motivational part down yet, but the discipline is vastly improved. But the Leafs still have the second worst GA number with 53 in sixteen games played. That has to improve.

Phunky (as in the bad smelling use of the pseudo-word) Phildephia visits the ACC tonight. A let down against a vulnerable team would be the smart bet, considering the patterns of the first month of the season. Beyond that, a wounded animal is easy to think of as harmless, but that is when it is most dangerous. I'm hoping the Leafs will execute early and walk away with another two points, though I expect the Flyers to make it very difficult, even if Bob "rebound machine" Esche gets the start.
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So, it's off to Montreal on Saturday, followed by a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday swing through the South East, and finishing up in Buffalo next Saturday. My optimism is limited to hoping for 4 points through those five games.

I was a bit off, as the Leafs have earned 8 out of 10 available points in that span.

2 Comments:

  • At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The PK improvement might be the most unheralded change from last year's team. Peca and Gill have been beasts on the PK and I don't have that 'when are they going to score?' feeling that I used to have. I think we are 8 for 8 on 5-on-3s this year. Last year those were 8 goals against.

    The team has shown that they can be a top team when they play like last night. Sure it was punching above their weight but if they can get closer to that level more consistently then it'll go a long way towards getting this team in the playoffs.

     
  • At 11:02 AM, Blogger ninja said…

    Ain't it a shame some think Peca is completely average?

    What a dumb ass commment from Mr.Montgomery, especially considering no one expects Peca to contribute offensively.

     

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