Raking Leafs

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


Just ask Boyd

TOR @ ATL 03/29/07 - Shift Chart - TOI

Don't let that picture fool you, the Leafs got run out of the building last night. According to ESPN the hitting differential between the two teams last night was four hits, 19 v 15. The lesson is to never trust ESPN hockey stats because the Thrashers out hit the Leafs to earn a win. Just ask Boyd. And if Pohl was one of the few laying the body, the Thrashers weren't taking much punishment. I'm not sure why Maurice didn't make an adjustment after the first or second periods, because the Thrashers' physicality was working, evidenced by Steen taking a dumb attempted retaliation penalty.

Positives, like moral victories, don't mean much when points are so critical, but it should be noted Raycroft played an excellent game, especially when the Thrashers cranked up the pressure after the first period. Even Fishler noticed.

Antro deserves some kudos as well. On the tying goal, he corralled the puck just outside the blue line, interupting the Atlanta break out, bought a bit of time for his teammates to get onside, entered the zone and fed the puck to the wing for the shot then drove to the net, collected the rebound, found Gill through three blue shirts, and fed Hal a great pass.

To correct Shoalts' article, Sundin didn't have the puck roll off his stick on the open net wrap around, Andy Sutton made a heck of play to block the shot.

Next up are the Penguins who had been previously thought to be bottom feeders, diving deep to catch prey practically blind. But like their Antarctic namesakes the Pittsburghers only dive to the bottom of the league so they can zoom upwards to catch their prey unawares. Yes, I watch too many nature programs but Crittercam is awesome. Thankfully, the game won't be played at the Igloo, but rather the newly comfy confines of the ACC. Hopefully Gary will still be on the shelf.

***And Simmons, don't try to appeal to my fondness for Kaberle. It won't work.

UPDATE - Check out Wyshynski's Coach Rankings. Also, the blogroll has been updated a bit. Check out the several new-to-me Leafs' blogs. And if I missed ya, don't fret, I'm not done spring cleaning.



Playing the trap

David Shoalts has a great article up at globesports about what should concern any Leafs fan; can the Leafs win a game against a trap-style team? They managed to beat the Devils recently, but New Jersey was lacking firepower. Not so with the Thrashers.
[M]y chief concern [is] that we're going to try and put every pass on the tape and fit the puck through their team. We're not going to be able to do that
Turning the tables on a trap team can be a successful tact, forcing the sitters into attackers, but allowing Hossa and Kovulchuk to rush at will doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me. But rushing into the trap is playing into their hands, and probably won't work if the defense join the rush. This game has me nervous.


Here we go yo, here we go yo. So what so what so what's the scenario

TOR v CAR 03/27/2007 - Shift Chart - TOI

One down. Six to go.

What a game?! A must win in regulation game. And Cam Ward crumbles like feta. The Boyd goal is an excusable first shot softie. It happens, and his team has to bounce back. Which they did. The Kubina slapper that he knocked in himself is understandable with Bates and Pohl all over the crease waiting for the rebound. Just a bad bounce in a mad scramble. Even the Kilger slapper was not a shot every goalie can stop.

But Kilger's second was just horrendous rebound control of Pohl's shot from the wing. Yanic "Did I say face-off specialist? I meant breakaway specialist" Perrault's nifty hesitation top shelf glove side wrister is tough to blame on Ward.

So I guess it wasn't so much Ward crapping the bed, but moreso the Hurricanes just not playing well all around. Ward should've had Boyd's goal and Kilger's second. Other than that, the Leafs' scoring depth put on a show and all four lines completely shut down the Canes' attack, beginning with disrupting their breakout and shutting off their speed in the neutral zone and all the way back into the Leafs' zone where the Leafs kept the plays to the outside and zone time short. Of note, Hal Gill had a tremendous game, and not only because of his beauty stretch pass.

After last night's game, the team has no less than twelve 10 goal scorers, five of which have a legit chance to make it to 20. Not bad for a team that can't score. And for those complaining about Sundin only having one goal in the month of March, I give you Coach Mo.
Their top two lines were pretty powerful, so we needed (Mats) Sundin's line and (Matt) Stajan's line to play against them. If they cancelled each other out, the next two lines are going to decide the game for you and that's basically what happened," said Maurice. "Without being disrespectful, the bottom half of the lineup wins the game.

The only negative from last night's game is the uncertainty surrounding Wellwood's (lingering?) injury. He started the game with Tucker and Kilger and was on the first powerplay unit, but only skated for 6:16. The reports are saying he was kept out as a precaution, but I'm not convinced because he still attempts to avoid any contact much like he did in December when the injury started to bother him.

Kaberle was again rushing the puck with confidence, gaining the zone with ease, which was nice to see. Hopefully he can score and join the 10 goal club.

On the media tip, I just have one thing to say; Steve Simmons, get the fuck off the Leafs' praise train. You are not welcome.

One down. Six to go. (and Go Sens and Sabres! Beat those Habs and Islanders!)

UPDATE - I'm not sure what happend to T.M.L. 1967's recaps, but hopefully they'll be appearing again soon.

UPDATE - Hattip to forecheck for pointing to "On Speed" by the E, no drug references intended.

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Begin's right foot

Thank you Steve Begin's right foot.

I know it is bad karma to cheer the misfortune of others, but with all the Leafs misfortune throughout the season I'm confident that my happiness about this bad luck for the Islanders will at the worst make me even with the hockey gods.

The conventional wisdom for prognosticating who will make the playoffs in the East comes down to goal-tending. You must have your team defense and scoring depth, but if you don't have clutch goaltending you won't have much after 82 games. The Rangers have it, again, after it was strangely missing in the first half. Tampa Bay didn't have it, then had it, but now they don't. Carolina might have it, if Cam Ward finds his key to the zone where he lived during last year's run to the Cup. Montreal seems to have found it in recent rookie call-up Halak(Have you seen that 'Doom' demon on his mask? cool, but unsettling). Who knows how long Halak will have it, but the Crystal Ball waits in the wings, but he might not have it back either. Toronto has it sometimes, but that is usually when the team plays well in front of Raycroft.

And that leaves the Islanders, who had it big time. DiPietro was the horse which was single-handedly pulling New York into the play-offs. He beat the Leafs by himself twice in February, as I'm sure other victims of the white-hot /long contract goalie would attest. But with this news of Ricky D out indefinitely, a race for two spots from six (33%) that just became a race for three spots (thanks tampa) among six teams (50%) is now a race for three spots between five teams (60%).

And if Mike Dunham proves me wrong, he won't do much against the Sabres or Devils.

Sometimes, the cliche 'it's the little things' really rings true; one right foot out of forty-six on a team over eighty two games = 3772 feet per game, and all it took was one.

Now, you might be thinking, but the Leafs still don't have much of a shot given the fact they don't hold any tie-breakers. But if you are thinking this you didn't have your confidence in this team dismantled and then built back up in the span of twenty four hours this past weekend by the likes of Stajan, Steen (How pissed off does his look lately?! Whatever it is, I love it), Wellwood, Carlo, Antro, Kubina and Raycroft. If the young guns are capable of carrying this team in its time of greatest need this season, I'm thinking these last few games are very winnable. And if Sundin and Bates and Pohl can join the party....the Leafs might just make it in, and make it in on one helluva roll.




TOR vs NJD 03/20/07 - Shift Chart - TOI - YouTube

The above photos pretty much sum up the game. Belak pounded Janssen, the crowd and the players loved it, terrific goal-saving play from Carlo, followed immediately by Sundin to Wellwood who seemed to have honed his one-timer after missing an open net for a game winner last week.

And don't look now, but Antropov is becoming a dominant and effective player, almost seeming to get better as the game gets tighter. UPDATE - Antropov becomes Leafs' top sniper (03/22/07)

Raycroft should make an offering of fried chicken to his posts, because he would've been fried in the media today had the Leafs lost.

The Devils don't scare this Leaf fan. In a seven gamer, I'd take the Leafs. The Sabres are another team the Leafs have played well this year. Admittedly Buffalo is a bit more daunting, but a sweep would never happen, and I have faith they could push the series to seven. Not sure they could pull it out, but ya never know.

Home and home this weekend with the Trump comb-overs should produce some great hockey.

UPDATE - Commenter mike points out this PSA that gave me a chuckle. Definitely worth 45 seconds of your time.




Kaberle and Wellwood are key components given their ability to make finesse passes. Before Wellwood went down with injury, followed closely by Tucker in mid-December, the Leafs were 29 for 126 with the man advantage, a success rate of 23.0 per cent.

Since, they've sputtered scoring on only 14.3 per cent of their chances (34 for 237). Getting Kaberle back would mean reuniting their top unit for the first time since Dec.16.

"It's good to have him back on the ice," said Maurice. "We need what he has to offer. Whether he's in the lineup, we have to find different ways to move the puck and be successful."(link)

When Paul Maurice took the helm last summer he commented that he wouldn't be messing with what wasn't broken, and in particular the only thing that wasn't busted in the 05-06 campaign was the powerplay that was among the best in the league. This trend continued for the first few months of the 06-07 season, despite many doubts that Allison would be sorely missed.

At the time I agreed with this course of action, and even got over-excited when early in the season the powerplay was showing a new wrinkle with players moving quickly away from the puck, confusing and disrupting the four man box defensive scheme opening up new scoring opportunities.

Kyle Wellwood admirably filled leadfoot's shoes, providing a deft passing touch down low. However, once Kyle was slowed by an injury, more serious than originally diagnosed that ultimately took him out of the line-up for three months, the powerplay began to sputter. Tucker's effectiveness as a trigger man waned, and about two weeks later Darcy himself was shelved due to a foot injury.

Now, I don't have access to information as to the level of involvement the coaching staff has with the powerplay, or if it has been left solely to the players. I highly doubt the latter, as it would be professionally irresponsible, and would conflict with reports of practices being dedicated to both sides of special teams. However, a powerplay can not solely rely on personnel, and this seems to be the case with the Leafs. There have to be schemes at the ready when first unit players go down. Even PP2 tries to mimic the top unit, both in structure and play choice.

I'm not sure where I'm going with all this, but I'd like to see a good powerplay performance from White, Carlo, Steen, Stajan and O'Neill that takes what the defense gives them in terms of passing lanes and pressure/space and creates quality scoring chances. Being a man up isn't rocket science, but it does require every bit of smarts and effort needed at even strength, something this team has drastically improved upon from a year ago.

Come on boys. Get your head in the game.

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Kubina & co. defuse Lightning's voltage

TOR vs TMP 03/13/07

Leaf Lines

Leaf Pairs


"The team of last Thursday, not Saturday" started the game in Toronto. Luckily they didn't finish it.

The Leafs weren't clearing the zone or getting pucks deep which stalls the entire Maurice system. It was looking like another valley after a tremendous peak on Saturday night when Richards' powerplay point shot deflected off White past Raycroft who was moving in the opposite direction.

Truth be told, Raycroft should've been penalized in the opening minute or so for clearing the puck over the glass without a deflection. Good thing that play isn't reviewable.

However the team simplified the game, got the puck out and deep and started the forecheck to great effect. Kilger read an O'Brien pass from behind the goal line up to center and stepped in to break up the play. Chad laid it gently off the boards for Tucker, who fed a streaking Wellwood. Kyle out-waited Sarich and slid a pass to Kilger who finished the play. Mats talks about liking Kyle on his wing, but I think Darcy likes being Wellwood's wingman, as this combination was close on numerous occasions throughout the game.

Sundin almost had two goals on solo rushes in the first period alone. The first was finesse job, trying to get Boyle to bite to either side. The second a more classic speed burst to get in alone.

On the Leafs first powerplay a few minutes into the second, you could tell PP1 really wanted one. Unfortunately Richards made a brilliant pass to Boyle, trapping four Leafs behind the play. Danny 'Boy, Oh' Boyle finished the play with a great wrister to the far post just above Raycroft's right pad.

But Sundin was on a mission tonight. The doubting media had printed "goal production" pieces in recent days lamenting Mats' lack of conversion the last couple of weeks. Apparently Mats likes this form of motivation. With one of his best goals ever, he posted up Sarich deep in the left corner, then sliced between the second defender to get out in front of the goal line. Following a reactive Pinnykarovsky, as the SUN network colorman keep mispronoucning, Mats madly stick-handled his way to the bottom of the left circle and fired past Denis' left pad.

On the winner, Antro and Sundin showed some collective anticipation. From the left corner, Antro fed a waiting Sundin behind the goal then continued to the net. Mats returned the puck and Antro did the rest, using his reach to create an angle from in close that once again proved clutch.

The Lightning mounted a valiant come back attempt, and almost equalized. Vinny 'almost a Leaf' Lecavalier found iron from a sharp angle firing a puck deflected off a skate. Martin 'tree trunk thighs' St. Loowee almost torpedoed through the Leafs' defense in the final minute with the extra attacker but Kubina made a tremendous goal-saving play for the second game in a row, swatting the puck off the little speedster's stick before bringing him to the ice. Worth every penny in my opinion.

Next up is a mini two game road trip, first to loser of eight straight Washington then onto Montreal to play the all over the place Habs, who beat the Islanders after knocking out white-hot Rick DePietro last night.

It is too early and too wide-open to get excited, but this is a different team at home of late, and that bodes very well for the Leafs' chances. Having Wellwood and Tucker back doesn't hurt either, and if Kubina can continue to buoy the D with Kaberle out, we might just see some play-off action this year.

UPDATE - Spector has a 2007 UFA list if you are already looking past the play-offs. Baby face Briere is tempting, as is Gomez, but the Leafs are chockerblock stocked with centers. Smyth would fit in nicely as well.

UPDATE - TCF Regular Season Pool - I'm clinging to a top third spot and losing grip. It looks to be a two horse race to the end between sarahaha and johnrt.



Ninjitsu Hockey League

I really should frequent HFboards more often, but finding time to join another online community just isn't possible for me in my present circumstance. Luckily, these jokers do have the time, and make it worth your while to check them out. I had to post a link to this thread because of the obvious parallels to yours truly.

good shit, that.



I don't really care if he calls me. I don't care (if I hear from him). He doesn't respect me and I don't respect him.

Harsh words from a seemingly gentle soul. Tugs on those heart strings alittle, eh?

Tomas also seems very optimistic in assessing his chances to return to the line up. Which is nice and all, but the last thing Kaberle or the Leafs need is for him to come back too soon and suffer a long term set-back. But don't tell that to him.

I want to be on the ice as a soon as possible. I plan to play this year for sure.
And it is rubbing off. Wellwood, originally slated to return in about two weeks time, then moved up to next Tuesday is now talking about a Saturday night return to the line up. With Pavel 'no time for pain' Kubina coming back while his finger is still mangled, and Tucker's surprise return, either the training staff has their hands on some top notch HGH or Cam Janssen's hit has galvanized this team's resolve.

I think, er more like hope, we'll see what the team is really made of tonight.

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Cam "I was just finishing my check" Janssen benched after "clean" hit

You(tube - full unedited coverage) be the judge. Here's a slo-mo version to crystallize it for you.

And if you think I'm a homer, watch this.

I had been hoping Belak would dress for this game, but as my girlfriend noted, the team needs other people beside Belak to step up, and that sparring should be introduced to the off-season training regimen. She also calmed me down as I was furious nobody even touched Cam 'ladyboy' Janssen, raising the possibility the Leafs were more concerned with Tomas' well-being. This may be, but it still felt wrong. Atleast Tucker justified his raise by coming out and giving Cam a piece of his mind. Mark March 20th on the calendar. I know Darcy has.

The head is simply out of play for initial contact. Period.

I don't have much else to say except, 'Fuck you Cam.'

UPDATE - In light of Strachan's article about the contrasting mindsets of NHL fans north and south of the 49th, the fact that Cam Janssen is a favorite of Devils' fans, despite his miniscule average time on ice is somewhat telling. I don't agree with Al's generalizations, but Cam's status in the garden state is intriguing.

UPDATE - Jim Kelley "gets it"

And the blood and gore group is not just alive, they are off the table and walking, now running into anyone who moves.

You could see it when the New York Islanders started kicking the stuffing out of the New York Rangers and the New York Post openly calls for physical retribution. You can see it again when another Buffalo Sabre, Chris Drury, is blindsided by a shoulder to the head by Ottawa's Chris Neil and not only is there no call on the ice, but the powers that be declare the hit is clean even though Neil states for the record that he hits to hurt people and that, should the Senators get the upper hand in the rematch (read get ahead by two or more goals) there will be more of the same. And there was.

Those who taste blood for a living can feel it oozing out of their gums now. Blows to the head are clean as long as they aren't too late. The NHL has declared it so.

Those pain-in-the-butt media types (and I admit I used to be one until I saw the blood red light flash before my eyes) don't like it, especially after one of their own is taken down like a stag at a hunt in the swamplands of New Jersey. It gets a little dicey when media in the centre of the hockey universe gets involved, but that's not a problem for the NHL. They slap a three-game suspension on that Devil Cam Janssen not for the wicked blow to the head that knocked All-Star Tomas Kaberle head first into the boards and out of the rink on a stretcher. They declare the head shot legal, just a little late.

UPDATE - http://battleofontario.blogspot.com/2007/03/finishing-your-check.html posted some comments made by Ken Dryden a few years ago addressing Cam's rationalization. Check it out. It reads like a breath of fresh air.

UPDATE - Mirtle posted the guiltless comments from the shitbag himself. Sounds similar to the title of this post, don't it?

UPDATE - Please read these comments from fellow spofite Mr.Frisby who happens to be one of the biggest Devils' fans I know. His levelheadedness is much appreciated.

UPDATE - Greg Wyshynski penned an imaginary conversation about an imaginary situation that, although originates from the mind of a Devils' fan, highlights the ridiculous nature of the NHL supplementary discipline system, if you can call it a system at all.

If players do not know what the punishment will be, if any, there is less of a deterrent to avoid these types of actions. If a player knows they will be suspended automatically for 10 games for any particular transgression, without the latent uncertainty of a "review" players would be more inclined to shy away from such actions. Simple as that.

If you know the time for the crime, you probably won't become a criminal.

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Pain reliever

Buddies are great. They'll knock you down off your high horse, or pick you up by your boot straps, or whatever pedal apparati you might be wearing at the time. This past week was a case of the latter, after seeing the Leafs' lackluster performances and JFJ's trade for Yanic which left a bland taste in my mouth. A buddy wrote the following, and it made me feel quite a bit better. Hopefully it will have a similar affect on you, dear reader.

Hey dude,

Got your email yesterday lamenting mediocrity and praising the "true
rebuild". Well, I caution you that success via re-build is no sure
thing. Ask Chicago. Or Boston. Or Florida. Or LA. And yes, for each
failure there is a Carolina or a Nashville, but that only underscores
the point that the trash-and-start-again approach is iffy.

Rather than trash-and-burn versus slow-and-steady, success is
dependent on having people with bright minds in place with a cohesive
vision and commitment to a determined path. And in my mind the
slow-and-steady approach is evidence of such a successful system.

Think about Jersey, where the GM and the coach (whoever it is) agree
on a style and a type of player they want. They pick those players
(ever notice that every Devil is the same player?) and they work
within the system. Toss in a Marty and you have a winner for decades.

Or Detroit. Same thing. Or Buffalo lately. Or Colordao. Sure, the Avs
are in a lull this year, but is there any reason to believe this team
won't make the playoffs in 08? And that's what it's all about... Getting to the point where your lulls put you on a point per game pace.

The trash-and-burn rebuild is a myth. You're better with a soft
re-build followed by a slow-and-steady approach. Draft the right
players. Select and sign people because they fit your style, not
because they might (!) have the talent to be a super-star. Take sure
and steady... Minimize misses, be it in the draft or free agency.

Zach Parisie was good at all levels. People liked him and his skill.
Hugh Jessimen was good at a B-level American college, but he was huge
and people liked the possibility. If you're drafting to minimize
misses, the choice is simple. And when you select Jessimen instead of
making the right choice it can set you back a full year in overall
team development. Think about that and know that the trash-and-burn
method results in far more Jessimens than Parisies.

It's the nature of that approach. It's inherent within trash-and-burn
that you'll reach for the possibility. A GM will do this because you
need to have that kind of overwhelming success from a player. Or you
have more picks so you can take a chance on this one guy. And before
you know it you're dumping never-will-bes and career ECHLers for 5th
round picks and laundry detergent.

You follow up that with desperation and soon you're signing the hot
goalie of the year to a six-year deal to appease the press and your
fans. Before you know it you end up in Chicago banking on Marty Havlat
and trying to figure out if Lapointes 17 points offset his -15
plus/minus (it doesn't).

Now go back and look at the trade-deadline with a new eye. Hell, go
look at the entire year for the Leafs so far. Sure they didn't trade
Sundin, Kaberle, Antropov, McCabe and Tucker for draft picks, but they
didn't pick up Bertuzzi either. And that, coupled with the moves they
did make, are evidence that the tide has turned in Leaf-land and
turned for the better. Slow and steady. Prudence is the virtue.

Success is dependent on having people with bright minds in place with a cohesive vision and commitment to a determined path.

If you think Junior and Paulie are bright and if they are working
together... Be happy.

Paulie I'm pretty sure about. Junior is ok.

Thanks bud.