Raking Leafs

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


Fridge clipping

"Look ma, a quote!"

I have to say it feels really good to be noticed for your efforts. It sure doesn't happen at the office. So I'd like to thank IwoCPO of AbeltoYzerman for actually taking the time to read this here blog, and for adding RakingLeafs to his blogroll.

Oh, and the check is in the mail for including me in the latest Carnival of Hockey.

UPDATE: Where are my manners? (Under-developped? Shut-up self.) I should've commended A2Y for bursting onto the blogging scene and immediately becoming a daily stop. A2Y gets my personal endorsement as a destination for time well wasted!


Courtesy of baroose @ Mr.Mirtle with regard to the St.Louis Blues' yardsale.
Doesn't it feel like Bill Laurie is playing out the script from 'Major League'?". Yeah, except for the winning the championship part.

Florida shocked as would-be prey sleys Panthers. Veterinary Dentist called to examine victim's canines.

Despite outstanding efforts to throw away the lead, going down 3-on-5 three separate times, the Leafs managed to win 4-2 over the offensively anemic Panthers.

Kilger had a nice hard-working rebound goal to open the scoring, made possible by the timely involvement of Harrison keeping the play alive at the blue line with a low hard shot. I'm with the broadcast team in asking why it took so long for Harrison to get called up, and maybe the reason for the delay is due to Maurice teaching him quite a bit this season. I like the sound of intense practices.

Wellwood showed some brilliance on a right wing rush, and was set up beautifully in the slot for a powerplay score. However Wellwood needs to look for his shot more often. Tucker sent another memo from his office. "I shoot the puck from there every day in the pre-game skate...". O'Neill caught a break on his goal, as his pass was expertly deflected by Bouwmeester's right skate past Roberto. I'm not sure I believe the scoresheet and his five shots on goal. I think I saw maybe three. But I have to say Jeff made an excellent back check in the first near his own goal line. I hope he continues to be that determined with his defense, because his offensive forays are uninspired.

Khavanov went out early with a foot injury. Kaberle made a gorgeous pass that broke Sundin on a breakaway, but Luongo was up to the challenge. Harrison and Kronvall - the transplant. Don't fix what ain't broke. As for Klee, I want to know what he was kicking at on the first goal. He also got beat on Nieuwendyk's goal. Please keep this guy off the ice as much as possible. I think he got double-shifted at one point and looked like he was going to puke.

Eddie was great, making the saves he needed to make, and could've had a chance at the shut out if it weren't for Klee's kick save attempt.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


Diamond in the rough

You know what I'm talking about (nudge, nudge)

The Stock Report

In the USA hockey struggles to find it`s place. Right now in some hockey cities it`s somewhere between the national horse manure shoveling competition and three legged turtle races
The NHL has it`s chance to learn from their mistakes in the first half of the year (like putting me on OLN)


A point, a point. The Leafs got a point!

Losers in overtime to the Habs, the Leafs were in control for most of the game only to unravel at crunch time.

Tellqvist got the start and played well, taking a 2-1 lead into the third, where a deflection off a defender and then a miscue on a dump-in undid his good work. Tucker had an instant impact from his office on the powerplay; near the right post. Khavanov was jumping into the play and scored in his second straight game, this time at even strength. Harrison and Kronvall looked like they were from another planet, given how alien a solid defensive pair has been to this team apart from McCabe and Kaberle. When McCabe and Berg get back, I'd be comfortable with any of the three pairings; McCabe-Kaberle, Berg-Khavanov, Harrison-Kronvall.

Klee's slow feet were again a drag on the team's performance, despite his game tying goal. O'Neill is just horrid. I'm beginning to think he has some major off-ice habits that are hurting his play. Of course I'm speculating, but given how hard he has taken the loss of his brother, too much drink is well within the realm of probability. I feel for the guy, but not at the expense of the team.

I've only just found Dougie Gilmour's columns in the Sun, but his latest is again a refreshing perspective on the value and situation of captain Mats. But I have to say Sundin didn't look as energetic last night as he did against Buffalo.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

This week the Leafs have four games, three on the road through the Southeast and then back home to host the Devils. Roberts is on the IR, so he isn't around to sting the Leafs. The 'Ning are finding their game, especially Grahame with three shut-outs in his last five games. The Caps are one-dimensional, so hopefully the Leafs can shut down AO. And the Devils can't seem to score at the moment, so with any luck they'll still be ice cold, like alot of fans this year, when they come to the ACC.



With the AO 'Boom' video making the rounds today, I wanted to re-visit something I wrote back in November about Ovechkin being to the NHL what Jordan was to the NBA.
The NHL has the next one coming, it just got the name and nationality wrong


Two Skates and Crazy Eddie

Make it 7 in a row, but it wasn't as bad as the score looks. The Leafs scored first which was a positive sign. With Sundin at the right point on the powerplay, Steen roofed one from in close to take the early lead. The penalty kill looked dangerous, as all three forward pairings of Kilger and Wilm, Antro and Poni, and Allison and Stajan cleared the zone, generated chances at the other end and even drew some calls. I even wondered if Kaberle had been watching game tape of Lubomir Visnovsky as he was joining the rush and shooting the puck with abandon, which for Tomas totalled a season-high 6 SOG.

Everything the Leafs were doing pointed towards them keeping their lead, but a puck thrown out of the corner re-directed off Allison's skate, who was all alone in the crease with Belfour, and into the net. Unlucky break, right? Like a bad omen, the Eagle seemed to snap under misfortune's weight. Shortly thereafter, Wozniewski, who otherwise had an excellent game despite his minus 4, fell victim to a lack of luck as a seemingly harmless shot off the wing by Derek Roy richoted off Andy's stick and the outside of his skate, sending the puck just inside the near post and handcuffing a surprised Belfour. Less than a minute later Eddie took a minor for frustration. So at the end of period one the Leafs, who very easily could have led 0-1, were down 2-1.

After two quick goals early in the second Quinn paced and pondered over the decision to pull Eddie, but Belfour made the decision much easier than it appeared. Belfour was not mentally prepared to continue and give his team a chance to comeback and win.

Steen scored another powerplay marker, again from Wellwood, again from in close and into the top of the net. Poni added another bringing the Leafs back within one, but the Sabres made it a two-goal game less than a minute later. The Leafs reined in the Sabres once again with the team's thirteenth short handed goal, a beautifully back-hand redirect over Ryan Miller's shoulder by Khavanov, making it 4-5.

The third fell apart quickly. First, a phantom call on Steen for tripping when the Buffalo player fell shooting the puck. 22 seconds later Kilger is called for an obvious but unintentional high-stick. Cue Mr.Clutch. On a 4-on-3, Drury launches a rocket to make it 4-6. Cue Mr.Ed. Ken Klee is called for another slow-footed hooking penalty. Vanek deposits the trash in the bin. 4-7. McKee makes is 4-8 while short-handed and with Tellqvist on the bench.

The home crowd was booing in the final few minutes as Buffalo went into their prevent shell defense, but I thought the negativity was uncalled for. If not for two early bad bounces and the ensuing mental...lapse of Eddie, the Leafs would have been in a position to build on their lead in the first period. Several facets of their game were markedly improved, namely the powerplay, the forecheck, the clear, creating turn-overs in the neutral zone, finishing checks, and clearing rebounds. The previous five losses were much worse, and these last two have been building blocks. I know its not the best time of the year to be taking baby steps, but at least the team is improving their play and the remaining schedule provides plenty of opportunity to gain ground in the standings.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Socratic Quinn

I really dug this story about Quinn from the 2002 Olympics (what's that they say about good news traveling fast?)
"He's this big, burly, kind of husky guy, kind of intimidating," Anderson says. "I just sat there and we just started chatting. He was a great guy. I just picked at his brain a little bit. I'm Mr. Zero on hockey. I didn't even know his name. I saw his face before, so I knew he was the coach.

"I asked him questions about his career. I never asked about the athletes he coached, just mostly places he lived and things he saw that he appreciated. He sat there enjoying that cigar. We had good chats. He'd ask me stuff. Pat Quinn was cool."
From a league perspective, Al Strachan hinted at a dream of mine.
...if someone other than Gary Bettman were National Hockey League commissioner
Enough with the warm and fuzzies. Tonight the Sabres are in town. It should be an interesting game, as both teams are in flux. Toronto's woes are many; injuries, inconsistent effort, and a media frenzy questioning even the equipment manager. And yet despite losing to the Senators on Monday, I think the team is trending in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether they can carry over the positives.

As for Buffalo, they came away with a win over the Oilers and lost to both the Canucks and Flames on their recent western swing, just like a certain team I tend to watch. Captain Chris Drury had to call out his team's lack of effort after the Vancouver loss. They responded with another loss to the Flames, but came up with a solid showing against the Rangers on Tuesday in which they out-played the Rangers in all facets of the game. The Sabres also lost the services of team co-point leader Tim Connolly for several weeks thanks to Darius 'I've still got it' Kasparaitis. Already missing Briere and Mair, the Sabres are a little thin down the middle.

UPDATE: Here is another fantastic article on Paul Kariya.
"The next thing I know, he's asking me if I still like to get the puck at the edge of the faceoff circles for one-timers and at the left edge of the goal crease. I'm thinking, 'Wow! What's with this guy?'..."
"The master sees four or five plays ahead and the beginners just see one move."
"He shouldn't have gotten up from that hit," Devils goalie Marty Brodeur said later. "That goes to show you what kind of warrior he is."
It's almost like thinking to yourself: You don't really realize how nice it is to drive a BMW until you get back into a Toyota


I'll take it

If ever there was a moral victory in the world of professional sports, I consider last night's game a nominee at the very least. Despite the final tally, the Maple Leafs were not easy to play against, which is a trademark of the past and needs to be in the upcoming weeks. The team also put to rest some of my major concerns that they had folded their collective will to play hard.

Checks were finished, sometimes a little too enthusiastically. Last night was a perfect example of how this overlooked part of the game translates to other aspects; the break out was clean and less hap-hazard because not all three opposing forwards were skating around unhindered by body-contact. The rush was more effective because opposing forwards would be caught behind the play after a good hit. The physicality also disrupts intangibles like confidence, focus, and other qualities that contribute to the Senators executing pretty plays.

Stupid penalties were minimal, and not from the usual cast of characters. This time it was Sundin and Antropov. But I'll forgive these transgressions. Sundin was trying to fire up his squad, and Antro was protecting Belfour; something the Leafs have been far too lackadaisical about in the past month or so.

I sure hope Carlo isn't too busted up. We need his enthusiasm. Domi had an energetic game, which was a nice change. Wellwood should be playing more on the right side. Stajan deserves more quality ice-time. I'm really liking Wilm's game. Kilger was throwing his weight around last night. Sundin was checking peeps, finally. Berg looked really comfortable last night. Kaberle kind of dogged it on the back check on Smolinski's goal. Allison's edge is vital to this team at the moment. Poni's one-timer from Sundin at the half-boards looked impressive. O'Neill needs to put forth more effort, or get in better shape, or something.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

McCabe is on the mend.

Scotiabank Place apparently cues up the theme from 'AirWolf'. That is rad.

Oh yeah, no more PS2 predictions will be posted on this here web log.


Oracle of Jersey

If Lou Lamoriello were running the Leafs, what would he do?

An interesting question indeed. Would Domi, O'Neill and Klee be on the waiver wire by now? Would Quinn still be bench boss, and would Maurice be still steering the Marlies? Would Pohl be a regular on the big club? Would Sundin finish his checks on every shift?

I don't have any answers, but I like the idea of a roster shake-up. The players seem too comfortable in their place with the club, and it shows.

From the wishful thinking department, 4-3 Leafs win
The Leafs rebounded with a big win Monday night as Mats Sundin led the way with a hat-trick and Ed Belfour made 32 saves for the victory.


Slaughter of Ontario

This is getting down right painful. 7-0. Dougie Gilmour is the only source of solace this mild January morning with his tale of a salvaged season in the swamp.

I'm not going to delve into detail about the game. If you missed the game, you are lucky. If you watched it, you know why I want to avoid the bad memories. Personally, the only positive was securing a much needed SO in my fantasy pool.
Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairings

Monday, 7:30 p.m. is the next scheduled lashing. I hope they can muster some pride in the mean time.


Lock-out Lessons

Lesson 1: Work-rate. Having turned to the EPL as a source of sporting distraction during the owner induced lock-out, "work-rate", the term in question, describes what some hockey pundits call 'tempo', 'work ethic', et al. But this isn't a musical or a moral play, this is a hockey game.

Work-rate is a quantifiable metric. Perhaps this tracking technology and analysis needs to hop the pond? I think it does. It is not a perfect measure of a player's worth or value, as players like Nik Lidstrom will probably have a relatively low work-rate in light of their value, but that is only because they are so economical with their movement. But for fore-checking wingers, work-rate analysis could provide insight and indisputable figures needed to jump start a floater.


The Toronto Country Club Hockey Team

"I hear the Leafs constantly knocked for their lack of speed," said a scout who has seen Toronto play twice in its rough patch. "It's not their lack of speed that gets them in trouble, it's their work ethic"
A gamer like him would never be caught 30 minutes before a game, as a couple of Leafs have recently, talking on the phone trying to arrange tickets for that evening's match or reserving a table for friends at their arena's Air Canada Club
Are we becoming the New York Rangers of seasons past?

It's going to be a light blogging day. Kidney stones tend to do that.


Crumbling Leafs

Did I pick a horrible time to start writing a Maple Leafs blog, or what? In the midst of only the second four game losing streak since Quinn took over, I'd have to agree with myself.

Last night's 5-3 loss to the Wild was chock full of turn-overs courtesy of lazy passing in our own end, failed stick handling attempts to clear the zone, weak play along the boards, clumped skaters in the neutral zone, telegraphing...not to mention the stupid penalties, especially O'Neill's frustration job late in the second. Oh yeah, and Khavanov went down with a rib injury. But that wasn't the difference in the game. It was the gift of a goal scored by Walz 0:33 into the second period. Take that one away and it was a completely different game.

I'm not sure if it is a lack of execution or the effectiveness and adaptability of the system Quinn has in place, but something isn't right. The Leafs have been a dominant team in maybe ten contests this year, but in the majority of games they are a team that appears capable of only tying its opponent.

Quinn can't just clamp down on defense like he used to do after letting go of the reins for the first twenty games or so because that style of play is no longer permissible. The offense isn't quick enough to generate turn-overs and score that extra goal, but rather is giving up that extra goal per game. Play in all three zones of the ice is lackluster. So something has to change, but I'm not sure Quinn has anything left in his bag of tricks.

On the bright side, Stajan scored another shorty and Allison continued to hustle, though he did enter the zone at least three times and decided not to shoot despite the recent urging of the coaching staff. Also, Allison's slow motion deke described as 'lazy' as he went around Zyuzin was worthy of a chuckle.

Leaf Lines
Steen-Sundin-Stajan(who replaced O'Neill in the third, but really deserves the prime ice time)
The rest were ineffective and barely played

Leaf Pairings
The above played approx. 50 minutes

Next up the Ottawa Senators in an away-and-away series Saturday and Monday. That bodes well. Atleast Montreal is in the midst of a tough western swing. That is as positive as its going to get today. Swami PS2 isn't awake yet.

01/20/06 UPDATE: Binary Swami says Leafs lose 5-2
It was a tough night for the Maple Leafs as Jason Spezza had three assists.

I love the long sleeve T


A tale of two teams

After struggling, if having the second best offense in the league can be considered struggling, throughout the first half of the season because of poor goal-tending and coping with the absence of Forsberg, the Avalanche look like a team heading in the right direction. The Maple Leafs seem to be going in the opposite direction, after over-achieving in the first half with a prolific power play and surprising youngsters stepping up. However, Quinn's bias towards the pairing of Kaberle and McCabe seems to be coming home to roost. And with news of McCabe actually having a tear rather than just a strain, LeafNation will witness how artificially buoyant the team is in the standings as the under-utilized D take center stage.

Last night's game was an allegory for the two teams this season. After jumping out to an early lead, and able to re-take the lead after Colorado tied it up, the Leafs looked like a team capable of handling an elite squad.

Then the scary second period happened to the Leafs. On successive stupid penalties for hooking and (the second of the game) too many men, the Avs took the lead on two quick strikes by Milan 'I'm still deadly' Hejduk. Belfour let in a softy from Cody 'my third ever NHL goal' McCormick from the wing to make it 4-2. Svatos added a fifth before the nightmare of a period came to an end, but the Leafs' night was basically done.

Sundin added a PPG to ease the pain, but I had already fallen half-asleep after my third whiskey sour, and I wanted my wooby.

Leaf Lines
3rd and 4th lines were practically invisible
Even Kilger and Wilm didn't do much

Leafs Pairings

-Comic Relief-
three hilarious ads for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL

Next Up, the Wild of Minnesoter. 5-5-0 in their last ten, and way out of contention in the West.
The Leafs rebounded with a big win over the Wild. Kyle Wellwood had a goal and an assist.
4-2 Leafs win.


a blog is born

Mr.Mirtle has added this here blog to his list of hockey blogs, so I hope I can live up to that billing. C.Y. of the Toronto Star's 'The Hockey Page' has kindly noticed.

Thanks to both of these regular destinations of mine.

Game Day Preview

Joe Sakic had two goals including the winner with just under a minute to go in overtime as the Leafs started the road trip on the wrong foot.
Avs 4 Leafs 3 F/OT

Well, I don't know if Quinn was able to plug the holes in time for tonight's game, but at least he tore a strip of paint off the team's country club attitude. Though I'm not sure it matters. The Avs are the hottest team in the league, going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. This might be a "score first = win" type of game, because if the Leafs fall behind, I'm not confident they'll be able to catch up.

Ferguson receives some sage advice from Al Strachan this morning
Or does he cash in some of the young talent that is personified in the likes of Kyle Wellwood, John Pohl, Alex Ponikarovsky, Alexander Steen and Matt Stajan
JFJ, if you sacrifice any more youth just to get to the playoffs this year, you'll be getting a pink slip from my office.


Kudos Cujo

Congratulations are in order to Cujo for winning his first start in Toronto since jetting to Detroit. He learned the hard way that he should never have left, and to be honest I've always missed him. But last night Cujo didn't so much as win as not lose.

Getting the calls, and not getting called, the Leafs got the powerplay working in the first period, sans McCabe, led by Sundin's two primary helpers. Allison's goal shouldn't have been, as the would-be defending 'Yote was laying on the ice after skipping the novacaine for some impromptu dental surgery. Carlo went to the net from the blue line on the far side, and Sundin put it on his stick for the second power play marker. Tomas 'the passer' Kaberle ripped his third goal in the last three weeks. But if TK slapping in another goal just before the break seemed too good to be true, it was.

Either Gretzky lit a bonfire under the squad from Arizona, or the Leafs were too busy cooking smores on said fire because the rest of the game the blue and white couldn't get anything going or organize in their own end. Said the broken record. Needless to say, the PS2 programmers failed to include the Leafs' overconfidence in the game code.

On the prognostication tip, I can see the buds slipping below the top 8 in the next couple of weeks. Right now, and like most of the season thus far, the team lacks cohesive defensive play, effective 5 on 5 offense, consistent effort shift to shift, and in general a killer instinct. These were a necessary two points squandered. The upcoming road schedule is loaded in the opponents' favor, and with the recent strong play of the Devils and the expected sustained push of the Thrashers, Toronto could be battling for the honor of playing the Senators, Flyers or Hurricanes from here on out. 01/17/06 UPDATE: Cox agrees

Next up, the Avalanche on Tuesday in Denver, then the Wild in St.Paul on Wednesday. The Leafs have been better on the second game of back to backs this year than in the past, but I'm not sure they can get in enough practice from now until then to plug the holes needed to beat a system team such as the Wild. And winning the second of two really doesn't translate to improvement when you lose the first game. Here's hoping Aebischer reverts to his early season form and the Leafs aren't left mile-high to start this four game trip.

Leafs Lines

Defence Pairings

Housekeeping note: I'm still working on the appearance and layout, so bear with me.


It was a tough game for Wayne Gretzky behind the bench as Mats Sundin had two goals and an assist in the Leafs win

I should probably add the game hasn't been played yet. But why should I let a little thing like reality get in the way of enjoying a win for the good guys? PS2 previews will become a regular feature here, as I just found the gimmick today and I'm intrigued as to its accuracy.

Saturday's game should see the return of Nik Antropov, who will be playing alongside Wellwood and Stajan. I'm not sure who will be playing down the middle, as all three are natural centers, I think, but I like the combination of size, speed, grit, and skill.

McCabe is expected to miss his second consecutive game. I think he should take his time, and let the remaining D corps get some chemistry going.

Marius Cherckovsky (aka Czerkawski) suffered an undisclosed boo-boo in practice and won't be cracking the line up, again. So be sure to expect more hobbled Domi and Tucker getting quality ice time, though one of the two might get the night off.

On a side note, Joe Thornton let slip quite the quote last night.

It's not my team. I don't care anymore.

Damn. That's harsh.

Mr.Mirtle posted a comprehensive and organized list of all hockey blogs. I plan to let him know about my new little slice of cyber heaven.

And Finally, a nugget of wisdom from all places an NBA coach

I think our league spends so much time talking about individual players
You think, Larry? Nah, you've gotsta be kiddin'. But if you aren't, can you have a word with Gary Bettman who thinks the NBA and its marketing approach is the buttered-side of WonderBread? I'd really appreciate it.

ICE CHIPS - test link


Star favoritism? Quite the opposite.

Last night saw the return, and quick exit, of big Joe Thornton in Boston. Just minutes into the first period, Joe was given the night off after a somewhat questionable hit on Hal Gill, which was more Gill's fault for not being able to play against like-heighted opponents than anything. The book was thrown at Joe, as he was called for 'intent to injure', and given 15 PIMS and a game misconduct, which in my opinion was in the interest of public safety and not for Joe's actions. No matter, Marleau and company stepped up and layed the hurt on the Bruins.

During the last game of the evening, the Leafs took on the Canucks one superman down. Though Toronto looked horribly disorganized on the back end, Superman's replacement toppled Bertuzzi with an awesome open-ice hip check pinch at the blue line, and the Leafs closed the first period up 2-1. Early in the second it became apparent that Bertuzzi's teammates wanted to protect the fragile forward and repay Carlo's kindness. Canuck forward Ryan Kesler supplied the punishment, in the dirtiest form possible; a hit from behind about 4 feet from the end boards. Kesler first swatted at Carlo's stick, disarming and distracting the promising young defender, then shouldering him to the ice. Luckily Carlo was able to return to the game after returning to the lockerroom. But the travesty was the punishment, or lack thereof, which Kesler received for his barbarism; 2 minutes for boarding. Adding insult to almost-injury, Kesler later added an assist on the lead-taking goal.

Having witnessed both checks, the latter had far more intent to injure than the Joe's shoulder-on-shoulder right up against the boards. Kesler should've been thrown out of the game. My girlfriend, who is new to hockey, even noticed the horribly one-sided officiating. However, the refs did clean their glasses and get one critical call right. With less than 30 seconds remaining on a Leaf powerplay, Steen split the D on a smoke signal of a pass from Kaberle, was hooked by Ohlund, but fought off the stickwork to roof a beauty backhand to pull the Leafs to within one. The ref's arm immediately shot up on the hook, and the call put the Leafs right back where they should've been more often last night, on the powerplay.

Khavanov also did a great job of sneaking down from the point. He scored one, but could've easily had another two; he fanned on a beauty Domi pass, and Allison was too slow, go figure, moving behind the net to feed an open Alexander.

No excuses though. The Leafs handed the Canucks some goals, in particular Kronvall. But the blue and white were presented with a massive shaft from the refs, which ended up being the difference in the game.

P.S. - I frickin' love those Canuck throw-back sweaters.

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairings