Raking Leafs

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


Some kind of voodoo

TOR vs BOS 11/28/06

Line Combo TOI: note-lines are listed C, LW, RW

The Bruins became the Leafs and the Leafs became the Bruins. Atleast, that is how I saw it last night as Toronto pummeled Tim Thomas only to come away with a mere goal and another loss to a division rival fighting its way back into the Northeast playoff race. And with four games in hand, and three wins against the Leafs in the past month (two in regulation), Boston has taken a huge bite out of Toronto's lead and could now overtake the Leafs if they continue their hot play. But enough lamenting the new even more competitive divisional situation.

In defeat the Leafs played well. Actually, both teams were skating like the dickens to the point of inadvertent collisions and wobbly legs. Bates and Peca in particular in regard to the latter, O'Neill and Tucker, the former.

Kilger regained his early season form and was hitting everything in site, including putting Mara through the glass on the end boards.

Wellwood had the best game I've seen in a while, showing a tad more patience with the puck that makes all the difference. He should've scored a few times, but what are you going to do?

Peca provided much more of a threat with bik Nik on his wing, who himself had another great game and single-handedly created Toronto's lone goal. He is becoming the teams's second most dangerous forward, behind Mats. Sundin wasn't his dominant self, and didn't lead the team in ice time for forward for the second straight game, which is a trend I expect will not continue for long. Tucker played well, but didn't bury his numerous chances. (Darcy, if you get paid like a goal scorer, those in close chances have to go in) .

Kaberle's rushes up ice and Kubina's forays into the offensive zone were exciting, but unproductive. I do like Maurice using the two Czechs as a pair, as I hoped he would in the off-season, and with McCabe tripping on his laces, I expect to see more of these two. And more of Bell, who is inexplicably benched behind Belak.

Speaking of, I don't want to see Belak on another two-on-one for the rest of my life. He either does the wrong thing, or nothing at all, which was the case last night on Donovan's goal. I don't understand it. He's got a 50/50 chance of making the right choice; take away the shot or the pass, usually the pass, which makes the choice more like 75/25 since I'm throwing around percentages all willy nilly. And while I'm kneeling on his throat, I strongly believe Wade leads the league in TOI:GA. Oh well, maybe Nash will be inserted into the line-up so Maurice doesn't have to rationalize Belak's participation.

One other request; Can we please stop letting Boyes rack up the points against us? In four games, he has 2g4a12sog. His absence from the Leafs organization is starting to give me an ulcer. I think. Or maybe that's heartburn.

UPDATE: Definitely check out Bitter's coaching concerns. I've been worrying about the lack of adaptability myself.

No six-pack for now. I might get to it on the weekend, but I wouldn't count on it.

Week 9 Rankings Round Up

CBC - week 9 - 11th (-4) (Updated 11/24/06)
Moore - week 9 - 10th (-3) (updated 11/28/06)
Sagarin - week 9 - 17th (-7) (updated 11/28/06)
DeGroat - week 9 - 11th (-2) (updated 11/26/06)
Mirtle - week 9 - 8th (-1) (updated 11/22/06)
Johnson - week 9 - 11th (+3) (updated 11/28/06)
CBS - week 9 - 10th (-1)(trend)(updated 11/28/06)
TSN - week 9 - 6th (+2) (updated 11/27/06)
ESPN - week 9 - 12th (-2) (updated 11/27/06)
NBC Sports - week 9 - 7th (--) (updated 11/22/06)
SI - week 9 - 14th (-2) (updated 11/27/06)
Protrade - week 7 - 8th (+3) (updated 11/13/06)



Life Happens...

My apologies for the lack of posts, as I have been on vacaying/eating/drinking/generally de-stressing in FL, NJ & PA. It has been a great ten days. However, I'm sure you've somehow managed without my musings.

I'd like to extend a special congratulations to my buddy currently sipping Mai-Tai's somewhere on a remote Carribean Island enjoying his honeymoon.

It seems the team has regressed to the roller-coster of W-L-W-L. And that Sabres game was especially hard to stomach. I'll have a six pack up sometime during/after tomorrow night's game.


Pohl leading the team...

...in PIM +/-. Closely followed by Wellwood and Steen.

The Mad Hockey Blogger is also in on the act with the three-component HockeyIQ.

Earl 'Red Label' Sleek has a round up other stats, like shooting areas(on ice) and shot location(on net), and even the uber ambitious shift/situation/result analysis.

And on a purely leafs slant, here is a profile of Leafs' fans. If you feel so inclined, take the survey.

The NHL stat revolution will be blogcasted!

UPDATE - Check out this spofi thread on hockey-recap.com's creator profile by Wyshynski, that captures a few more links on the subject.



It has happened. In his eighth NHL season, Tomas Kaberle is getting the recognition he deserves.

I've been an advocate for a while. Even in the face of anti-Leafs' fervor raving 'he is over-exposed as a Maple Leaf and if he was stuck up here near Cold Lake nobody would think twice about his game.' Or 'he isn't really that good, McCabe makes him better, besides he is too soft.' Even out-right ignorance that 'he can't play defense.' Well, if you're just joining the party, even though it started during the lock-out when he won MVP of the Czech Extraliga, welcome. There is plenty of room. (and just for the record, the Poni party started last year too.)

I was tickled when earlier this month Jes picked up on Tomas' new penchant for puck firing. That was Tomas going from under-ground to indie hit.

But now he is getting regular airplay on your little sister's station. Ken Campbell of THN mentions Tomas Kaberle and the word 'Norris' in the same sentence. [via] I know, I had to sit down too. For an encore, Campbell lists the 72 defensemen drafted ahead of Kaberle in 1996. And the cherry;
Kaberle went 204th overall that year, 203 spots after Chris Phillips went first overall to the Ottawa Senators.
And all of this attention is well deserved. He served up the majority of McCabe's PP goals in 05-06 that landed McCabe an Olympic gig and a fatty contract. He finished top-5 in defense scoring on a team that couldn't play five-on-five hockey; no easy points when your wingers don't rush up the ice and score. And he did all that while anchoring the Czech blue line in Turino and taking almost $2m less mid-season because he wasn't interested in maxing out his salary.

In doing so, Kaberle enabled JFJ to sign fellow countryman Pavel Kubina in the off-season. I sometimes wonder if Kubina's name was invovled in Kaberle's negotiations, because that is the kind of conspiracy theory I want to believe. And speaking of theories, for those who think Steen was the deal breaker of the talked about Pronger deal this past summer, I beg to differ. Giving away Kaberle would've been the real tragedy of such a deal.

I"m such a believer in this tremendously gifted athlete, I've given him a dumb name; Clutchosity. Laugh if you must, but he is one of the best candidates in the NHL for a man-crush, so I have no shame. I even recommend his sweater as a gift choice for hockey fans when asked by non-hockey fans. No joke.

So maybe after this year, I can call him by a new nickname.

Labels: ,


Week 7 Rankings Round Up

CBC - week 7 - 9th (+5) (Updated 11/10/06)
Moore - week 7 - 7th (+3) (updated 11/12/06)
Sagarin - week 7 - 10th (+6) (updated 11/13/06)
DeGroat - week 7 - 9th (+3) (updated 11/12/06)
Mirtle - week 7 - 9th (+3) (updated 11/13/06)
Johnson - week 7 - 11th (+6) (updated 11/14/06)
SI - week 7 - 8th (+2) (updated 11/13/06)
CBS - week 7 - 8th (+1)(trend)(updated 11/14/06)
TSN - week 7 - 8th (+4) (updated 11/13/06) - notable quotable - "Surely there's an intermission interviewer just waiting to ask, "How unstoppable is Marian Hossa right now?" The natural response, from whomever is unfortunate enough to receive the question, will be, "Very unstoppable. Very, extremely unstoppable."
Protrade - week 7 - 8th (+3) (updated 11/13/06) - notable quotable - "As of right now, the Atlantic division is officially the worst division in hockey. Whether that lasts the season remains to be seen, but considering the Devils lead the division with a negative goal differential, that doesn't say a whole lot about the rest. "
ESPN - week 7 - 6th (+4) (updated 11/13/06)
NBC Sports - week 6 - 9th (+2) (updated 11/09/06)


Leafs earn second consecutive divisional Win

TOR vs MTL Nov.11/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


Combo TOI

After dispatching a Bruins team in disarray, the Habs come to town to challenge the Leafs minus two no.1s. The Habs came out hard early in the first against a sluggish Leafs squad, seemingly not up for the game after a long pre-game ceremony. However the Leafs would strike first courtesy of a Janne holding penalty quickly followed up by a Sheldon "talking a big game" Souray delay of game, the first of two such situations.

With the two man advantage, Kaberle orchestrated the play;back and forth with McCabe, then down low to Wellwood to free up McCabe, Kyle quickly gives back to Tomas who re-directs over to McCabe who rifled the puck into the top-right corner.

The Habs answered back in the first with Guy Latendresse finding Koivu all alone in front for an easy tap-in, after Rivet wound up with the puck and found the heralded rookie out wide to the right. The Leafs were running around on this one, and really seemed upset that the shut-down trio was scored upon. It was understandable as Peca was stickless and the Defense never recovered its assignments and shape.

With a goal apiece after one period of play, the second became a parade to the box for the Habs. Montreal's PK was outstanding in response, and even pressured the Leafs a man down. But it would be Stajan who would put the Leafs ahead for good. With Kaberle on the right side and Bell filling Tomas' usual position, the two D worked the puck across the blue line and fired a puck at net with Stajan standing in front. Rather than wait for the rebound, #14 stopped the puck with his skate and quickly fired around a surprised Aebischer. Shortly thereafter, with the Leafs enjoying another powerplay, Kaberle fired one through the wickets on the fourth or fifth shot in rapid succession by the team. The Leafs struck a third time in the middle frame, as Antropov gained the zone with two Habs back and fired a wicked wrister past Patrick Roy's former apprentice. Coach Carboneau wasted little time after going down 4-1, installing Huet in net.

The Leafs, ahead by three, came out roaring in the third, which was a change of pace. Rather than get passive, the team took the play to the Habs and kept the puck away from their net for a majority of the period, except when down a man for only the second and third times.

This game came down to penalties and pace. The Habs had the latter early, but suffered from the former. The Leafs lacked the latter for the first half of the first period, but from then out-competed Montreal, while remaining out of the box for the most part. The Leafs in the top-10 for least PIMs accrued, while having played two, three or four more games than the rest of the top-10. What surprises me is that the usually heady Habs are in the bottow half of the league when it comes to being penalized. Not a good time for Montreal to abandon a defining characteristic, though of course it is not by design. Head coach Carboneau said it best;
We created those (penalties)...We turned the puck over too many times in our own zone. For 15 games now, every game, we have way more penalties than the teams on the other side. It's either us that have to adjust, or the other teams are way better than we are.
And when you can't stay out of the penalty box, it isn't wise to fuel your opponents' desire to beat you. Sheldon "running my mouth" Souray, dissed Matty Stajan, commenting;
They just outworked us. We started losing battles to guys like Matt Stajan, guys that you wouldn't expect that would to out-compete us, but they did
Get used to it, Sheldon. And hopefully Stajan remembers this quote come December 2.

The Leafs' minor players did well in their limited opportunities. Suglobov drew a penalty with his stick handling and skating, got the puck deep, found the smart team play, and finished the game even, which is the first time he has managed to do so since earlier this season in the horrible break-down against the Devils in the swamp. Best game of the year by far from Sugar. Pohl spent a lot of time on the power play. He didn't convert, but he should if given a continued look with a man up. His instincts around the net are exceptional.

Mikael Tellqvist stirred up a little trouble on Sunday, when he stated he was ready to back-up Aubin, but the doctors never gave him the ok. Obviously, Racine was used to back-up Aubin so that JFJ has more time to decide what to do with his three NHL goaltenders. If he keeps this up, he'll be talking his way out of town, sooner rather than later, which might be his plan. Just don't screw it up for the team, ok?

And congrats to Alex Steen, who is also a new father along with Pavel Kubina. Apparently, he and his fiancee have yet to decide upon a name though they have been pondering it for most of the pregnancy. I have a suggestion for a middle name. ____ Bear Steen. It's going to be my first boy's middle name. I think. UPDATE: Kingston Steen



TOR vs BOS Nov.09/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Combo TOI

The Leafs answered the bell with Mats out, as players young and old stepped up early and often. Whether it be scoring, or taking face-offs, or taking the body, everyone did their part.

Tucker and Peca and Kilger score the first three, and in a fashion not characteristic of the team so far, but a trend I hope will continue; goals were scored in the first and last five minutes of the period.

Tucker and O'Neill got it going six seconds into the first powerplay. The Bruins were sleeping on the play;Chara allowed O'Neill to play the puck, Thomas allowed the puck through his crease, and Lashoff forgot to eliminate Tucker going to the net. Darcy finished the play with an east tap-in.

Peca was up next with a beauty re-direct just above the crease from a great feed by Bates deep in the right corner, after Kaberle walked the blue line, stalling for space and time.

Next, Kilger created traffic in front of Thomas and deflected a point shot from McCabe, who was fed by Antropov after he cycled down low solo for about ten seconds. Antro is looking good folks. I know, I don't want to say too much, lest I jinx the 'Lankster', but he deserves the praise.

Not a bad first period, if I do say so myself. And it would continue. Not yet five minutes into the second, Big Nik finished the job after Poni drove hard to the net. These two play so well together, it is a shame they haven't been fortunate enough to remain healthy for long stretches.

The euphoria ceased when the Super Bruins (Sturm, Bergeron, Boyes) finally put Boston on the big board. But, again, the Leafs displayed character, resolve, heart, you name it, when they answered back less than two minutes later to restore the three goal lead. The Bruins coughed up the puck deep in their zone as they were breaking out, Kyle retrieved the puck, froze the defenders who were close to the play, fired a low shot to the far side, or what he probably saw as a bank pass to a open and waiting Poni to deposit in the open net. Early in the first Wellwood was fed the puck astride by Antro and blazed into the zone with Poni supporting on the left. Wellwood went to shoot, then over-thought the play, held the puck and fed Poni the puck in a spot where he could do very little with it. I love the creativity and skill, but Kyle needs to incorporate smarts into his suite of gifts. He needs to know when to shoot. Somebody please sit him down and have a "Shoot the damn puck!" talk with him.

Savard would score mid way through the second stanza on a stretch pass with a beauty back hand roofer. Not a big deal. 5-2. But the fates would once again test my sense of humor as Raycroft fell victim to another one of their jokes; a tweaked groin. Raycroft had been playing lights-out up to this point, turning away the typical Bruin barrage of shots. (aside: the bruins seem to hit and shoot alot, but somehow they don't translate that into wins. how is that?) And on the play in question he once again flashed a pad to make a great left toe save. But he immediately doubled-over and remained on his knees. Prudence followed, as he left the game and Aubin entered the game.
The Leafs would escape the second without anymore damage done, but the Bruins would strike twice in the third on their powerplay. Despite their embarrassing defensive zone coverage, the Bruins powerplay looks dangerous, and might help turn their season around. Though, they have to fix their net problems. I chuckled abit when the NESN team described Thomas' style as "unique", which reminded me of what a buddy says about Thomas; he never makes it look easy, he flails around too much, and rarely makes the second save. Is not what makes an NHL goal tender, this is.

Big Nik would snuff out the rally with an empty-netter, and make Gill and Raycroft's return a success. It was especially sweet after hearing Gill's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty announced emphatically as "Diving!"

So the Leafs score aplenty, but barely do enough on the opposite side of the puck to down the struggling Beantown boys. The scoring should not come as a surprise as the team could potentially have ten twenty goal scorers this year. At the moment, the pace is for eight, but if Nik can produce and Steen picks it up, the Leafs will be extremely balanced.

The problem remains goals against. McCabe said it best,
We have a tough time when we get up three or four goals...We got back on our heels at the end a bit.
The lead really shouldn't be a problem, so hopefully the team learns that keeping the collective foot and the proverbial gas is the best way to keep the other team from scoring.

Since the Leafs played the Bruins, it is somewhat appropriate to point out that Bobby Orr has come out against hits to the head. Ideally, I agree completely. I'm not sure how the refs will be able to enforce a shift in applying the rule book, but it is worth a shot.

Yes, you have to keep your head up. Yes, players are of varying heights. But when you intend to injury someone, that ain't right. There is a difference between a clean hard check and a dirty hit, and the difference is the head (or knee, but I'm not on that rant right now).

You can tell me Torres' hit on Williams was clean 'til the cows come home, and it presently is legal, but I still see it as dirty. He knew what he was doing. He took a run at a guy who was already covered. And put his shoulder in the guy's face. If you need more convincing go check out OnTheWings. Exact same play by Ben Eager is why Sundin is on the shelf. Only difference is Eager missed and clipped Sundin's arm, Sundin had his head up, and saw it coming at the last second.

And if you are curious, this is the definition of charging (Official Rules 2006-07, pg.93) :

A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.

Charging shall mean the actions of a player or goalkeeper who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the board, into the goal frame or in open ice.

That couldn't be more vague if it tried. And yet, I would argue both Eager and Torres were guilty of charging on the two plays in question. So why isn't charging called anymore? (I think I'll be examining some more definitions in the rule book in the coming weeks.)

UPDATE - Sisu and I are mind-melding or something.


Ulmer on Maurice

Below is an excerpt from Mike Ulmer's Nov.7/06 post 'Deconstructing the Presser..'. I don't get to see post-game press conferences, as Center Ice cuts out abruptly after the broadcast team signs off, so reading this was insightful and entertaining. Nice work Mike; very bloggish.

“There’s no sense hanging over the boards, screaming like a fool with 20 seconds left. There’s already one guy in the building doing that, we don’t need both.”

The reporter wants more. But Maurice has already given him a juicy quote and he is not above pointing that out. Maurice is also reminding him that in this game, thank you, he is the cat, not the mouse.

“You are getting nothing, just so you understand,” he says pleasantly. “I give you a gift. This is not a re-gifting party here. You get one. Take it, do what you want. There are no re-gifters.” The re-gifting is a reference to a January 1995 episode of Seinfeld called The Label maker.

“Did you not expect someone…”

Maurice shuts him down.

“No I did not. Mike Peca is fine. The game is over.” Of course, that can be taken two ways, the hockey game or the game between reporter and coach. It sounds like Maurice is referring to the hockey game but with him, you never know.


From one test to another

Now that the Leafs have survived, and some might say prospered, the bout of injuries to the defence corps that began in training camp, it looks like a more telling test is up next for the surprising boys in blue & white. The everything man for this team, Mats Sundin, is set to miss three to four weeks from an injury he suffered while roaming around the offensive zone against the flyers; the exact play described in an article characterizing his play as child-like in its enthusiasm. Sundin leads the team in offensive production, so we shall now really see "who will score" for this team.

Thankfully, Kubina should be back on Thursday against the Bruins which should further stabilize the back-end, and will hopefully translate into fewer goals against, which will be the key to success for the team over the next few weeks. Another item in the plus column is the fact the Leafs have already played the most games in the league (tied with Atlanta) and the Leafs only play four times from now until the 19th. Of course three of the next four are against North East division rivals Boston and Montreal, so points are critical.

UPDATE - Welcome to all of you who found your way here thanks to CY. Please feel free to comment. There is beer in the fridge. Help yourself.


Razor's edge the difference

TOR vs PHI 11/06/07

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs

Combo TOI


Despite coming off the biggest win of the season to play the worst team in the East and the League, the Leafs came out flying and took the game right to the struggling Phlyers, firing 15 shots on numerous scoring chances, ringing several off posts, but only scoring one. It came at even strength as Bates pulled a Forsberg, coming out from behind the net on his forehand, turning back toward the goal line and firing it past Niittymaki. I would consider it a soft goal, as Niittmaki seemed to flail trying to stop a high shot that actually went between his legs. Seems once again goal-tending is not one of Philadelphia's strengths.

The Leafs weren't able to stay out of the penalty box early while playing with enthusiasm, as they have over the course of the last few energetic performances, but the PK once again did the job in the first. However in the second the Flyers turned the tables and had the Leafs running around in their own end, resulting in a goal by Eager. Bell seemingly had the odd man rush under control but over-commited to the outside and Eric Meloche easily deked his way inside then found Eager streaking down to the far post.

The Leafs then took up residence in the sin bin on four consecutive penalties in the first eleven minutes of the second, but the PK once again blanked the Flyers. (PK ranked 9th, 87.7% pure) Raycroft in particular was outstanding, robbing Forsberg who thought he had an open net, as well as kicking a left toe to a puck from a tight short side shot that would've found the back of the net. A+ for Raycroft.

Tied at one heading into the third, I was uneasy as to which Leafs team would take the ice. Luckily it wasn't the passive team of the second period. Antropov scored his first of the year in a mad scramble at the top of the crease on the powerplay to take the lead. It was great to see Antro and Poni and Sundin celebrate the goal, who genuinely looked excited to be reunited and producing in the clutch once again. It wouldn't be surprising to see alot more of this trio.The Flyers pressed for a goal after that, and had their chances but once again Fred & Barney were great in the Leafs zone, though a couple of times were a bit too cutesy in deciding how to clear the puck. However, with the Flyers pinching to maintain the zone, White made a fanastic individual effort at the blue line against a much larger Flyer defender to clear the zone and send Poni off to the races, who blasted a perfectly placed shot into the top right corner.

And I take it all back. After watching as Steen could've easily potted the empty-netter, a la Alfredsson in the first game of the year, Alexander unselfishly found Kaberle trailing the play for the easy tally to extend Tomas' point streak top six games.

Also, I received an email today from the guy who runs hockey-recap.com, you know the Combo TOI link from above in all its daily-ground-breaking-awesomeness. In it, he asked that his current subscribers send emails to other hockey fans to try and grow his subscription count to ensure the longevity of his project. And he specifically asked not to gush, or plug his site, but simply to appeal to the stat-geek in all of us. This appeal was a last resort because he has been "unsuccesful in getting other high-traffic hockey web sites to work with me, possibly because they deem me irrelevant or possibly because they believe the site to be a competitor." So go subscribe, because what Gary provides free of charge is a unique and excellent resource, and it would be shame for him not to prosper from it.


This final link is for Bitter Leaf Fan. I don't buy everything Elliot says, but I thought it would be a good counter-point to his sharp critiques.

Week 6 Rankings Round Up

Sonny Moore - week 6 - 10th (+2) (updated 11/07/06)

USA Today - week 6 - 16th (+6) (updated 11/07/06)

James Mirtle - week 6 - 12th (+6) (updated 11/06/06)

DeGroat - week 6 - 12th (+7) (updated 11/05/06)

Protrade - week 6 - 11th (+6) (updated 11/06/06)

TSN - week 6 - 12th (+5) (updated 11/06/06)

SI - week 6 - 10th (+5) (updated 11/07/06)

CBS - week 6 - 9th (+6) (updated 11/07/06)

Johnson - week 6 - 17th (+5) (updated 11/07/06)

CBC - week 6 - 14th (+4) (Updated with a time machine back to 11/03/06) TWO MINUTES - UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT



Leafs blow by Sabres

TOR vs BUF 11/04/06

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


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.

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.


Did the Leafs play last night?

TOR vs FLA 11/02/06

Did they? Because it sure didn't look like it for the first 47 minutes.

Right off the bat, the Leafs were caught sleeping by Olesz who scored his first of the year. I'm tired of the Leafs being a remedy to other teams' scoring woes. And I mean really tired. Ottawa sucks, then bam, thirteen in two games. The Avs get their second win of the season in six tries against the Leafs at the ACC. Now, the Panthers who had scored four in the previous three games, score on their first shot. A few different things are going on here, but the common denominator is the Leafs. Not good.

Credit to the Panthers who thwarted almost every rush through the neutral zone. The Leafs generated zero speed through center ice, and Panthers were creating for all the turnovers they forced. As a result the Leafs were outshot for the third straight game. I guess all the shots were used up in Montreal over the weekend.

It also didn't help that Florida wasn't called for a penalty until seven minutes left in the second, but that is neither here nor there. The Leafs did squat with their lone power play advantage. Of course, the Leafs PK was solid, so there is that. And of course, a solid penalty kill doesn't win games.

The nail in the coffin came off Quietcowski's stick early in the third on a breakaway. #8 for Florida played an impressive game, and if not for his goal, the Leafs might have salvaged a point. First McCabe scored his second of the year, get this, at even strength. Sundin then rifled a slapper through Eddie "No Comment" Belfour. (Doesn't Sundin's shot look lethal with a composite stick?).

But the Leafs showed up with too few ticks of the clock remaining, and squandered one, and possibly two, crucial non-North East divisional points. The Leafs do have six points in the last four games, but last night felt like a missed opportunity. I should probably be used to that feeling by now.


TCF Pool Update - Congrats to 86, aka JP McGovern, for leading through the first month of the season with 285 points.


3 D G = W 3

TOR vs TBL 11/01/06

Alot of trends were bucked last night in the Leafs win over Tampa. Toronto overcame an absolutely abysmal record of 1-800-2 when trailing after two periods. Hal Gill scored. Ian White scored. Three defensemen score in a game for the Leafs, as Tomas has the hot hand. Not sure when was the last time three defenders scored in a game, but it doesn't happen often. The Leafs string together their first three game winning streak of the season. Antro wasn't injured while falling awkwardly in the first. Just kidding, but I think Nik owns the rights to the adjective 'lanky.'

For a great run down of in-game events from last night, go check out Chris Young's account. I was going to talk about the line juggling, but CY nails it. This is how the MSM should blog.

I know I've been hard on Steen the past little while, but last night it was almost as if he had taken some of my advice, and was looking to set up his team mates rather than just shooting the puck all willy-nilly. UPDATE - Well, I don't know how I could be so off, but apparently Maurice thinks Steen has been too selfless.

This is going to sound nuts, but I'd wish he'd make some mistakes," Maurice said. "We've asked a lot of Alex in terms of changes to his game, and he is such a conscientious person, I think he's taken it too much to heart. He's not making any mistakes, because he's thinking so much. At the same time, he's not breaking a game open, like we saw at times last year.

"I'd like to see Alex try some different things. Then have him come to the bench, get yelled at, and go back and try them again. Have that confidence in his game to do that. I like the line he is on right now with [Matt] Stajan and O'Neill. I can see him getting some power-play time in the near future.
The puck was following Steen around the rink, and he kept making the right plays. I think he might have deserved the puck luck he was getting last night. But, as Pension Plan Puppets notes, Steen was creating his own luck with a great move at the blue line on Kaberle's goal.

RakingLeafs' good friend Damien notes that JFJ sat down with Steen yesterday before the game, and I'm guessing that had alittle more to do with his performance than my cries of glory hunting. But I don't think Cox watched the game last night, or else he just posted a canned story early this morning before it lost all four of its legs. Cox could learn a thing or two from Young, imo.

Eddie "No Alcohol Involved" Belfour will be between the pipes for the pesky Panthers tonight. I expect him to play a solid game.

And kudos to Paul Kukla, over at the most up-to-the-minute hockey blog in the known universe, for following up on the 'Free or Not' question surrounding the new NHL and Google partnership.


Google is Good

Now you can download full-length NHL games and watch them on your time. Whether it's a memorable game or a keepsake of your first in-arena experience, NHL Video is always available on Google.


The League finally got something really right. A link will be in the sidebar shortly. Too bad John Collins can't take credit. Or can he? Nah.


UPDATE - Hold your horses. Apparently this service won't remain one of the great "Free" Google apps for long. $2.99 per download seems reasonable to delve into hockey's past, but current season games should be free. Unless of course the NHL is happy with the size of its current fanbase. In sum, still cool, just not hella cool as originally thought.

UPDATE - You can hack it, but it won't be free.

UPDATE - TVU player. google it.

Week 5 Rankings Round Up

TSN - week 5 - 17th (-5) (updated 10/30/06)

CBC - week 5 - 18th (-3) (updated 10/30/06)

CBS - week 5 - 15th (-2) (updated 10/31/06)

SI - week 5 - 15th (-4) (updated 10/31/06 - yeah riiight)

David Johnson - week 5 - 22nd (-3) (updated 10/30/06)

Sonny Moore - week 5 - 12th (+1) (updated 11/01/06)

FOX - week 5 - 15th (-5) (updated 10/31/06)

USA Today - week 5 - 22th (--) (updated 10/31/06)

James Mirtle - week 5 - 18th (---) (updated 10/31/06)

DeGroat - week 4 - 19th (-5) (updated 10/29/06)

Protrade - week 5 - 17th (-6) (updated 10/30/06)

Whatever happened to the MSM having a publishing standard for Power Rankings of Tuesday or Wednesday. This all over the map updating makes this feature sort of suck it. Oh well. It wasn't going to be around all season anyhow.