Raking Leafs

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


Is the American NHL saviour in Dallas?

Bonus on previous Bonus League coverage, Mark Cuban is at it again, dissing league naysayers, who regurgitate television rating statistics in ever a negative light, with a tongue-in-cheek comparison of NBC's Saturday NHL broadcast to the robustly healthy television product and favorite fodder of ESPN that is NCAA Men's basketball.

The NHL on NBC beat College Basketball on CBS, 1.1 to .70 Is College Basketball doomed ? Does no one care anymore about college basketball ? Is the NHL on a resurgent climb ? (This just in, NHL was up again to 1.3 on NBC) Is NBC just really good ? Are both great sports in a crowded market ? Stay tuned
Stay tuned, indeed.

[via - where else?]

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Kubina Key to reaching play-offs

TOR vs MTL Jan.27/07

Line Combos

The Leafs played another stellar game against Montreal, humming along at 3 for 4 on the powerplay while only allowing one goal against through seven short handed situations.

Kubina finally got it going on the powerplay, blasting a screened slapper to the near post. His second came from the exact same spot, directly above the right post just inside the blue line, but he switched it up on Huet and put the puck past him at the far post. Stajan truly deserves a fist assist on this one. His post-up pass from the slot back to Pavel was brilliant.

This is the Pavel JFJ paid for, and should be the difference between making and not making the post-season. With Kubina in form, playing with Tomas at even strength and leading the second pairing a man up, the Leafs can now boast a top-4 that rivals the very best in the league...and the D corps wasn't too shabby to begin with.

Jeff O'Neill got the game winner, but I'm not sure he scored the goal, or if it should've been counted in the first place. Matty Stajan swatted the puck with a downward motion, and contact was made right around the height of the cross bar, completely fooling Cristobal. I'm glad it counted, but if the call had been 'no-goal' on the ice, I don't think there was much video evidence to overturn the nullification.

Mats finally blasted the puck like we all know he can and was rewarded with his first goal since he had two on New Years Day.

But enough about the headliners. Travis Green just barely missed completing a gorgeous odd-man rush as the trailer, which would've been a beauty as his first back in the blue and white. It was great to see Poni back to where he left off; speedy puck pursuit and relentless battling along the boards. Antro needs to get hurt again, so he can come back with the venegance that was missing on Saturday. He is absolutely deadly when he plays with that edge. Kilger picked up the team on more than one occasion with hits that needed to be made. I think he enjoys playing the Habs as well. Wouldn't a first round match up of these two teams be a dream come true? It would be for me. Johhny Pohl wrung a beauty bid off the post, freezing Huet as he came down the slot with speed then moving to his back hand to shoot past the beaten Huet. This kid is a steal. And playing with the speedy Boyd D and Bates B, this rag tag reclamation line is producing way above its pay-grade...and deserves a nick-name. P, B, D. B, B, J. There is something there, but I can't see it at the moment.

It looks like Ian White will be back soon, and Bell should be back in the press box. Not sure what is up with Tucker, but I wish JFJ would put him on the IR already just to help out my struggling fantasy squad.



Great Leap Forward?

I normally wouldn't just link to story about the state of the game, but Georgeums over at Kukla's wrote such a bullet-proof plea for constructive criticism to the League and to Chairman Mao that I had give it its own post.

While I'm feeling inspired, which is becoming a rarefied sensation to this particular NHL fan, I wanted to point out a cool story about the connection between Alex Steen and JFJ, having shared post-dinner street hockey games in their youth.

Kyle Wellwood's groin is also making headlines, as he goes under the knife today to repair his sports hernia, "a relatively new diagnosis in the sports world, common to hockey and soccer players, and are essentially tears in the abdominal muscles caused by repetitive twisting and turning at high speed." It is funny, actually it is more sad than funny, how the team admits misdiagnosis with a press release the day of surgery and in the foreshadow of the All-Star...activities.

And I'm not sure why the media is calling for Sundin to break out of his slump, because I suspect the reason for his lack of production comes from his elbow not being fully healed. He hasn't shot the puck once since his return that convinced me his arm is 100%. Not once. Valiant effort, Mats, but you should've waited a couple more weeks.

And in case you missed it, Culture.ca put together a piece on hockey blogs for the six Canadian NHL teams. The most glaring omissions are BitterLeafFan, Leafclub, and budblog, who is sporting a new look.

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A-Ray, Antro and Alex

TOR @ TB Jan 16/07

Line Combos

This roller-coster of a season just won't stop. Since week one, the 06/07 Maple Leafs have provided enough exhiliration and anxiety to enduce cardiac arrest, and as the new year begins, the pattern remains. After crushing the Bruins 15-3 on aggregate, the buds fell to the Sabres and Canes on home ice, only to fight back and win against the Sabres in Buffalo. HDiC saw the Leafs wilt to a hot Canucks squad, with the surging Lightning next up.

Of course, if you are an emotional fan, the Leafs chances make you think doom and gloom. And if you are an objective observer, you are thinking not much more positively. And yet somehow the Leafs manage to win.

Andrew Raycroft was spectacular, if not a tad lucky, as he repeatedly robbed the star Lightning forwards. So much so, he seemed to be affecting their shooting. Prospal should've pressed charges after this gapping goal mouth bid was toed clear in the first. Raycroft made several more eye-poppers to keep his team close, and the bench definitely noticed.

Trailing after one, despite several golden scoring chances against, the Leafs started the second period strong, tying the score on a great play by Kilger to muscle his man off the puck to create a turnover at the Tampa blueline. Kilger fed Poni coming down the left side who fed Antropov in the slot who then quickly fired a laser past lately-improved Marc Denis. I'm not sure what it is about Antropov, but sometimes he is lethal. His decision making was crisp and assertive last night, a trait I wish was more consistent. He did try to one 'cutesy' play early in the game, but after that, it was all business. It makes me wonder what the Maple Leafs are like in a parallel universe that have had Antropov and Carlo healthy for the majority of the season, and their careers in Toronto. I bet they are a fairly good team, those make-believe Maple Leafs.

Battling back to tie the game, again, was another encouraging sign from this team of mystery. Johnny on the spot deposited a rebound with less than a minute to play shortly after Dan "the engine" Boyle scored on a rebound to stake Tampa to a 2-1 lead.

The days of losing leads in the third are beginning to fade. Mostly because the team hasn't been in a position to lose a lead, but whatever. The Leafs played one of their best third periods of the year, allowing only two shots, and scoring on the powerplay. Alex GWG Steen scored the go-ahead marker, to run his recent totals to 10 pts in 6 gp.

Kubina finally got to play his old mates, seeming as if he had hated his time in the sunshine state. Pavel levelled Boyle, ran the feisty Tarnasky into the Leafs bench, stacked the pads attempting to prevent Boyle's goal, and was an all-around menace. I am really pleased with his play of late, but there is still something missing from what I remember of him when he played for Mt.Torterella. He isn't rushing the puck with speed from behind the net, something he doesn't have to do with Tomas on the ice. However, I think it would provide added dimension to the Leaf attack if he took more responsibility to move the puck. The more the other team has to worry about defending, the easier it is on everyone.

And while I'm talking about the defense, I'm liking McCabe on the left side paired with Carlo. He seems much more relaxed, and his decision making has improved.

Full disclosure: I'm becoming a Belak fan. I was starting to see improvement here and there. Then it blossomed with that Newbury goal against Boston, where Belak kept the puck in to create the chance. Then, he embarassed Peters in Buffalo. (scouting report-remove Peters' helmet, and he loses his golf swinging arrogance). The NOB line has been retired, but let's hope Maurice revives it when he needs some...huh huh...punch in the line up.

-Mark Cuban's recent comments about the League and its inability to create a positive perception of itself and a possible solution to that image problem was a refreshing change from most league analysis, including my own. I couldn't begin to speculate on the feasibility of changing the way ratings are compiled and announced, but it seemed like a valid and convincing argument, purely from a numbers standpoint. Kudos to the Toronto Star for running this piece. I'd like to think Chris Young had something to do with that one.

-The recent debate concerning the excitement factor, or lack thereof, of Devils' brand hockey, keyed by Ted Nolan's comments that their style is "boring", which prompted apologists to cite how successful the team is makes me think of the old parable about a tree falling in the forest; sure it makes a sound, but if there aren't any ears to pick up those sound waves its like the tree was never there. So what if the Devils win with boring passive trap hockey, the fact that matters is that Devils' brand hockey doesn't put asses in seats. Memo to Magic Lou; winning isn't the only thing. If it was, the Leafs would've moved by now.

-Hasek publicly whinging about getting snubbed from the all-star game is my favorite story of the week. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

Happy Belated Birthday to Raking Leafs. I'm not one of the more prolific hockey bloggers out there, but I like to think I provide commentary you won't find elsewhere, and sometimes before it is found elsewhere. I've been slacking around here, but hopefully I can renew my enthusiasm for blogging the Leafs and continue this little project. Who knows, maybe this hobby will someday rescue me from my cube prison and afford me some sort of creative outlet that can pay da billz.


My palms were itchy this morning...

...when I read that Travis Green had been placed on waivers by Brian Burke. 'A lay-up for JFJ' I thought, knowing the Penguin (Danny Devito's Penguin, that is) would be looking for help after getting outplayed for Nedved. (aside: I doubt he even knew Comrie was in the game, not that the Leafs had cap room for him. Unless Peca's salary was erased with the Mogilny clause? Hmmm.)

Well, JFJ took the bait according to Kukla, and has claimed Travis to help shore up the middle. Travis was an important part of the 01/02 squad, chipping in with offense when least expected and most needed; his slapper on the rush tends to catch tenders off guard. And he is buds with Tucker, so hopefully that will help in the lockerroom. He didn't exactly catch fire when he played the Leafs, but he did contribute 3g(2onPP, 1 GWG), 2a, 5pts, and 24 PIMS in 13 GP.

If you saw last night's game, you know how horrible the officiating was. And Raycroft is not doing himself any favors lately. That pretty much sums up how I feel about that.

Oh yeah, and according to budblog's Jan.09/07 post, Welly's going to shut it down for this season.

Good times. woo.

UPDATE - Where do they get these wonderful stats?! Both Alan Ryder of the Globe (and hockeyanalytics) and The Forechecker of the Blog entertain the shot quantity versus quality debate. Note: BUF is the quasar in the outstanding visual below