TOR @ TB Jan 16/07Line 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.BONUS LEAGUE COVERAGE
-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.