Raking Leafs

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



If the Leafs ever decide to go deep in the playoffs again, I'm going to have a hard time deciding between watching the inevitable collapse and fishing. Though I suppose living out of market and possessing the ability to program a DVR pushes the issue to finding the time. And the loser is easy to spot in that equation; sleep.

For off-season giggles, check out Will Arnett's contribution to THN



Round 2 predictions


Rangers vs Sabres - Miller v Lundqvist is a push. Lundqvist is more of shut down guy, while Miller lets a few in until he needs to keep it out. Forward depth goes to the Sabres, though not by much, and I'm not sure if Ruff has an answer to Renney's Avery. Defensive depth is also a push, and might even go in favor of the Rangers mainly because I'm digging this Girardi kid. This is a tough one because I don't think the Rangers were pushed all that much in the first round, either by the players or the tactics. At the same time I don't think the Sabres are playing up to their potential. So what I'm saying is that is either going to be a very short or very long series. If the Sabres get the puck behind the Rangers' D too easily and often, it's going to be tough for Hank to keep the Rangers in it. I'd like to pick the Rangers as the dark horse upset spectacular, but I have to go with the Sabres in 7.

Senators vs Devils - Home ice won't be enough for the Devils as the Senators just might be the best team in the East, which is comical since they've been dubbed exactly that for the past three or four seasons, except for this year. The regular season series favors the Devils 3 to 1, despite the fact New Jersey was out scored. I don't see this trend holding up, especially if Colin White remains sidelined. Tough to bet against Brodeur, but he has looked particularly human so far this year. Tip to Ottawa; fire the puck at Marty's feet, early and often and from everywhere. It worked for the Lightning until they stopped. Senators in 6.


Canucks vs Ducks - Roberto, you finally got to the playoffs, and you even won a round. See you next year. There is no way Vancouver gets by Anaheim. Luongo is phenomenal, but even he can't stop what will sure to be relentless pressure. The Sedins will be neutralized by Pronger and Neidermayer leaving zero options for Vigneault. This should be over in 4, but I'll give one win to Vancouver courtesy a monumental game by Luongo. Ducks in 5.

Sharks vs Wings - This should be dandy. The Wings, early to the golf course last year. The Sharks, earlier to the golf course than they should've been. These two teams want it bad. Head to Head gives a decided edge to San Jose, who out-scored the Wings 2:1 with the help of a humming powerplay. Chelios may find himself out classed in this series, taking dumb penalties after losing his faster mark. The extra rest for the Sharks won't help matters in the motor city. Sharks in 6.

East - Emery
West - Giggy

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Is it me, or is there a new post from Chris Young over at JABS?


Round 1 predictions

I posted my predictions on Wednesday around noon, so these aren't after the first game guesses. These are real deal stabs in the dark.

-SnowBeltShivs in 4 - Dubie won't be able to stop this offense.
-Garden State Gnomes of the Underworld in 6 - Home Ice will win this for Lou's legions.
-Sather's Squad in 7 - In a series I think will be one of the closest in the first round, Hank is the difference.
-Ottawa in 5 - They step up and play like the sum of their parts would indicate. I think.

-Flames in 6. Toughness wins this one.
-Anaheim in 7. Minnesota has one line. Anaheim has two.
-Vancouver in 4 - Sorry Turco.
-Sharks prove to be top predator in 6 - San Jose wins it for their long time goalie coach.

Best GAA in Round 1
Goalie East - Hank
Goalie West - Bobby Lu

RESULTS Update - 4 for 4 in the east, picking the duration of the Sens and Devils' series. If not for Ricky D coming back, I think it's safe to say The Sabres would've swept. 3 for 4 out west, forecasting none of the series' length. I'm the worst at picking series length. Vancouver Dallas had goal-tendind duel written all over it. And Anaheim pushed the distance by the Wild? That was my worst pick, aside from the Flames getting their act together overnight. Somehow Turco (1.30) ended up with a better GAA than Luongo(1.41), so I missed on that pick. Lundqvist and his 1.50 are tops in the East though. Overall, I'd say I had my finger on the pulse of the first round.

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Thank you to all that have been stopping by since Saturday. I haven't had much to say, because really, what is left to say? But I imagine people are curious about the emotional car wreck that was this past weekend, so I figure I owe you, the reader, something to slow down and look at.

Truth be told, I made my peace with this season early last week, after the loss to the Rangers. It was going to be ok if the Leafs didn't make it the playoffs. Despite how much I felt the team could make it in, and put up a good fight in the first round, and maybe even beyond that, it was going to be ok if they missed. But, you know how rationalizing and convincing yourself to believe in something contrary to what one wants ends up. Stupid dichotomic human condition. Atleast I didn't watch the Islanders game on Sunday. End the season on the high note of beating the Habs and all. Oh yeah, the final Northeast Division standings are as follows:

Buffalo 53-22-7 113 308-242 28-10-3 25-12-4
Ottawa 48-25-9 105 288-222 25-13-3 23-12-6
Toronto 40-31-11 91 258-269 21-15-5 19-16-6
Montreal 42-34-6 90 245-256 26-12-3 16-22-3
Boston 35-41-6 76 219-289 18-19-4 17-22-2

That dulls the pain a bit. Moral victory, and all.

The team disappointed this fan throughout the long season, so really what is one more disappointment in the grand scheme of things? But despite the season ending once again before the games really mean something, the season was not a complete disappointment. Kaberle established himself as a premier rearguard. Wellwood made believers out of many. Kubina rounded into $5m form, and should be a solid contributor in the future. Carlo finally played enough games to show what he can do at this level. Same goes for Antro. White's speed and skill were top-notch throughout the year. Bates joined Kilger as reliable veteran pluggers. Steen and Stajan proved if nothing else durable through what can only be described as a struggle for consistency. JFJ's St.Louis gem Johnny Pohl acquitted himself well when given the opportunity. Boyd Devereaux fought his way back to the NHL with wheels I wish more Leafs' scouts looked for in prospects.

Sundin looked like a world beater to start the year, but never regained his dominant form after suffering an Eager/elbow injury, which is really an allegory of Sundin's career; dominant to the point of attracting so much attention that he eventually breaks. I have to admit, I took great satisfaction reading about how Mats Sundin had his hopes up only to have that hope dashed by the Islanders. Maybe he better understands what his team has been doing all season long to its fans. And if what the team did this season needs reiterating, please allow me to help in that regard.

Too many games wasted with lacklustre efforts despite reassurances from management and coaches begining in training camp of icing an ultra-conditioned team.

Too many one line games, where only one line would seem to put forth the intensity and synchronicity necessary to score enough to beat the opposition.

Too many hits passed on. For a team that is supposedly trying to be tough to play against, you sure fooled me, and the opposition, with how many players took it upon themselves to play with physicality.

Too much offensive predictability at even strength and on the power play.

Too many mental mistakes for a team of professional athletes. Starting October 12, 2006, when a three goal lead was surrendered to the offensively starved Devils, mental gaffes became a trend the team could not shake. I witnessed that October debacle first hand. Little did I know I was witnessing the meme of the season;Blown Leads. Completely unacceptable. A few more icings, a few more face-off wins, a few more.....screw this. I'm not going to calculate 'what if' points, even though I know they total more than five wins.

Yes, the scoring was balanced, with thirteen players scoring 10+ goals for a team total of 258. But the 05-06 edition has twelve 10+ goal scorers for 254 total for the team. Goals against again outpaced goals for at 269, compared to the 05-06 GA of 270. Net improvement from -16 to -11; Five goals.

These results wouldn't exactly meet market expectations. In the real world, the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club stock should be a Strong Sell.

Then there is Raycroft. All you need to know is what other teams were doing to him at the end of the season; hucking flittering wristers towards the top half of the net from anywhere in the zone. I think fatigue had something to do with his crapactular end of the year. Exhibit A; Ryder's wrap-around in game 82. He wasn't fighting to see pucks as much as he is capable of either. He just dropped to his knees and hoped for the best. Which wasn't good enough. Which is a shame because I wanted to give Raycroft the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible.

Rest up Wellwood. And hit the gym please. We need you to show a more physical side for your game to progress. And shoot 100 pucks a day. Make that 200.

UPDATE - Didn't think I'd see such an article chastising Leafs' ownership. Hockey's Future has a Leafs' prospect update up, and it has me very anxious to see Brent Aubin play against the big boys. Could he be a shoot-out specialist?

Congratulations to sarahaha for winning the Common Fan regular season pool.


Preseason predictions were great out West and horrible in the East. I should know more about the East, but maybe I let too much emotion into the equation as I went 4 for 8. I picked the Sabres and the Senators (whoppee, i'm a genius), then picked the Rangers and the Penguins. I flopped on the southeast, picking the Canes and Panthers instead of the Thrashers and Lightning. I still can't believe only two Northeast teams made it in. In the west, I managed to pick the Oilers as out, but substituted them for the Blue Jackets. Missed the Stars. How did I manage that?



Leafs Win


Well, that sucked

TOR @ NYI 04/05/07 - Shift Chart - TOI

Great play by Kaberle, but Boyd can't get it up

He gets all proud of himself because he managed not to take a minor penalty

Kaberle looks pretty nervous this weak floater from way out may beat a certain goal tender already waiting for the puck on his knees. I'm not sure it was obvious to everyone, but the Islanders didn't shoot low all game. Weak wristers from outside the blue line about waist high had me nervous. Playing percentages works in October. Playing the puck is needed now.

You hear me?!



Ok, I lied.

Back in September, I re-evaluated my 06-07 predictions, but with one notable oversight. I kept picking Montreal to finish last in the Northeast. To quote myself,

Montreal, I'm not worried about at all.
Boy, was I wrong. I haven't said peep about that miscalculation since, except when grudgingly conceding the fact the Habs started out well and were looking good to the blogger formerly known as Reality Check. I wanted to gloat abit when the Habs fell on their faces almost all the way out of the playoffs. Glad I didn't, because just about the time everyone was about to write-off their chances, along comes a crazy win streak to bring them back from the brink.

Now we sit, two games remaining for each team, the outcome of these two games deciding the playoff fate of each. Montreal plays the resurgent Rangers, the Leafs play the DiPietro-less Islanders. Then the Habs visit the ACC. How glad am I the game isn't at the keg? Really glad. But I don't want to get ahead of myself. I refuse to make any predictions for these last two games, but I admit it. I'm worried the Habs won't get out of the way.

I'm feeling good about the Rangers' chances this evening. After giving up a big lead in Montreal nine days ago, I have a feeling Renney will be icing a motivated line up with the aim to win, unlike the game against the Islanders where coach aimed to survive intact and held Petr Slewcha out and inserted both Orr & Hollweg. I don't really mean that diss on Prucha. Carlo should've realized it wasn't worth it and positioned himself to control Prucha on the boards. Prucha shouldn't have leveraged Carlo the way he did. A Rangers fan buddy of mine mentioned Prucha doesn't have a reputation for being dirty, which I can respect as a justification. Still, in slo mo the replay isn't reinforcing that reputation in my mind.

With that said, I don't have a good feeling about the Leafs tonight. The Islanders get up for the Leafs, and if the Islanders lose, they will be eliminated. No more 'must win' games to hype up. Even without Ricky D and a full NHL D corps, the Islanders have a thing for Tucker, and he will likely be victimized for more than one marginal penalty. And Blake and Smyth are the kind of players that will burn you if you don't respect what they can do. Not to mention Satan, Yashin, Hunter, Kozlov, Campoli and Bergeron. You could say I'm freakin' out a bit at the moment.

C'mon Mats! Shut 'em up with a season saving game. Don't get smoked by Dubie!

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I can't think of a catchy title...but they won

TOR vs PHI 04/03/07 - Shift Chart - TOI

I was beginning to believe this team was figuring out how to win a game with a score of 2-1. After Raycroft allowed a weak goal on the rush, the Leafs responded with two even strength goals from long overdue Ian White and Hal 'The Thrill' Gill, which resulted directly from the game plan of working the Philly D down low, getting traffic in front of Biron and firing pucks from the point. However unlikely, or my aptly put unsexy, the names on the score sheet, Toronto executed a safe game plan for the most part.

Then Bryan McCabe made a snap decision, retreating into the zone and swatting a puck that didn't exit the zone. That kind of hap hazard flow jarring puck movement is a coin flip, and McCabe landed on his head. Again.

Then Kaberle took over. Tomas repeatedly rushed the puck, pursued the forecheck, almost too mch so. Even when Philly 'mistakenly' took Coburn off the ice after an icing charge, Kaberle was yelling about the bullshit time wasting advantage the visiting team was enjoying. Way to go Tomas.

On this topic, I think the league should make an adjustment to enforcing the rule of changing personnel after an icing. If a team attempts to change a player after icing, lining up at the ensuing face-off with the improper skaters, that team should be given a minor penalty for delay of game. As it stands now, a team changing players after an icing and lining up for the face-off actually benefits from the officials enforcing the rules, giving the skaters that iced the puck a bit more time to recover. This is not the intent of the rule, and it is smart to exploit this lack of repercussion. However, just because a rule is flawed should not mean the flaw must remain.

Good thing this Leafs' squad finally figured out how to take home ice advantage and use it. Over time + powerplay = game winner.

Speaking of the powerplay, I was beginning to get really aggravated watching Sundin and Kaberle and Wellwood and McCabe throw the biscuit around with precision only to see Tucker sitting off in the corner doing jack and shit. It was even more glaring when Antro Poni and Yanic came out on the same powerplay and produced a much more effective attack. Sundin was flanked by Antro and Poni later in the game. Good move, but don't punish Wellwood for Tucker's ineffectiveness. I'd say try Antro and Wellwood with Sundin.

And Healy made a good point during the telecast last night. Antro needs to stand his ground when screening the goalie. Moving out of the way when the puck is about to be put on net basically makes all the sight blocking previously accomplished useless. Something to work on Antro...er, I mean Nikkie(sp?)

I'm not sure what the deal is with Tucker. I asked somebody here at the office about it, hoping to find wisdom from an opinion from afar, and he said Tucker is trying to do too much. After watching Darcy flub that feed near the right faceoff dot, I think he might be right. Darcy, just an fyi, but you already signed the contract. Now, don't do what Kubina did at the start of the season and try to earn your annual salary every game. Skate. Hit. Simplify. Because you look mad slow right now. So slow, I'm thinking JFJ should've traded your ass for Avery. And that hurts to say, but it is true.

Sundin will be fine. Besides, the whole "paid to score" choir are full of it. I'd like to see him bulge the twine more often, but if scoring 15 points in 16 games is a horrible slump, I'll take it. I still want that backhand wrap around attempt off the far post against Atlanta back.

So three and a half down, two to go. Doesn't have the same ring to it once you introduce half games, but you get the idea. Since beating the Hurricanes last Tuesday night, the Leafs have lost in OT to Atlanta, beat the Penguins in OT, lost miserably to the Rangers and scraped by Philadelphia in OT. That is 2.5 games worth of points out of a possible four games worth. The point system sucks, and needs to be addressed.

UPDATE - I went over to SISU to see if he had anything up pimping Koivu's miracle marker last night. But I found PIMP stats instead. I'm not sure I'd call what the Habs are doing this year "special."

Also, Spector notes that Nikita Alexeev's days are numbered in the windy city. No, not Ottawa. Personally, I'd like to see Poni and Antro working with 6'6", 227lbs Nikita. That is alot of hockey player on one line, and from what I can remember of him playing with the Bolts, the guy can skate.