Pension Plan Puppets: November 2006

Every Leafs fan has an opinion. Here's mine: We are all Pension Plan Puppets. The Teachers pull the strings and we dance.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Leafs 7 v. Capitals 1: Quick-Strike Rout

Game Recap

Last night I had the pleasure of watching my sister in the role of Jacqueline "Jack" Ross in her high school's performance of Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men. Aside from the obvious star quality of my sister, the actors portraying Lt.-Col. Nathan Jessop and Daniel Caffee were not only very good but they sounded the part as well. All in all it was a good night. Maybe not as good as the Leafs night as they skated into Washington and drilled the Caps 7-1.

The Leafs spread out the scoring and benefited from big nights from Jeff O'Neill (1-2-3), Hal Gill (1-1-2), and Darcy Tucker who added his 16th of the season and ffith at even strength. Andrew Raycroft got the sort of restful night that will have him ready for tonight's game against the Bruins. He only had to deal with 11 shots over the last two periods as the Capitals sank beneath two scoring outburst that saw the buds score two goals in the first three minutes of the game and three in one minute in the second.

I'll be in attendance at tonight's game and hopefully I'll be able to get some video and pictures up on Sunday.

The Final Word
Defensive breakdowns. Soft goals. Inexcusable penalties. You name it, and the Washington Capitals committed it -- and probably more than once -- last night at Verizon Center, where Darcy Tucker, Jeff O'Neill and the Toronto Maple Leafs humbled the home team, 7-1.
Tarik El-Bashir, Washington Post, makes me angry that I missed a wonderful Leafs performance.
The Leafs survived Sundin's seven-game absence with four victories and gained an additional point in an overtime loss to the Bruins 10 days ago.
Tim Wharnsby, Globe and Mail, forgets to mention that the Leafs averaged 4 goals per game in compiling a 4-2-1 record.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Leafs 4 v. Sabres 7: Aerial Hijinks

Game Recap

The Leafs travelled down the QEW to take on the Flying Sabres, the floppingest floppers that have ever flopped. (Note: In hockey. This post does not wish to detract from the well-honed theatrical skills of the Portuguese or Italian National Soccer teams or Chelsea FC) The Leafs were looking to reprise their complete performance that led to the Sabres first regulation loss.

Before any Sabres fans spit out their dip in anger I would like to point out that I missed most of the first period and from what I have heard the refereeing was brutal then too. I guess for a team to get two 5-on-3s it would have to be bad. Overall in the game it was brutal for both teams. Briere's hooking penalty on Battaglia's shorthanded breakaway was one of the worst call I have seen all year.

However, that does not excuse the Chris Drury and Brian Campbell for their dives. On Drury's you could see ice kick up from his jump when he felt McCabe's stick on him early in the second. McCabe frequently looks shocked when he gets called for a penalty but this time he was legitimately surprised that lifting Drury's stick could actually lift his entire body. Brian Campbell has had an all-star season thus far but for the second game in a row he took his cue from his more accomplished (in diving) teammate Derek Roy. Campbell, probably looking to replace the injured Roy's impact, morphed into the Flying Tomato Soupcan when he felt Kubina's stick on his skates in the third. Picture a perfect impersonation of Bobby Orr's famous goal minus the trip. The Sabres are putting together a very special season and they are a fun team to watch when they are playing at their best but they need to cut out the theatrics. This is two for two in games against the Leafs where the Sabres have lived up to their reputation.

That is not to say that bad refereeing was the reason that the Leafs lost. They have won games before in which they have had to kill off more than a handful of shorthanded situations and Wednesday night their hard work gave them a chance to win the game. This game was lost because of mental errors.

The Sabres' third goal came when Gill left his back uncovered in order to look after the left side of the box. Kilger made a half-hearted attempted to cycle down and the combination left Daniel Briere open to slot home a nice backhand pass. The Sabres' fourth goal came from the aforementioned Flying Tomato Soupcan but it would not have been possible without Jeff O'Neill's chicken scratching and Matt Stajan's lazy, stretched attempt at lifting his stick let Campbell fight through to poke the puck through Andrew Raycroft's legs.

Immediately afterwards Maurice called a timeout and you could see him gesturing and yelling at the players that they needed to take the extra stride to take the body and physically separate their opponent from the puck. The chat seemed to help as the Leafs carried the balance of play for the rest of the way. Unfortunately, another mental error undid the Leafs hard work as a lack of communication between Kaberle and Raycroft resulted in a hasty attempt at ringing the puck around the boards by the goaltender. Darcy Tucker allowed Hecht to slide past him along the boards and the resulting turnover led to Briere's second goal which eventually turned out the be the winner.

The bright side of this game was that the Leafs again showed that they could play with the Sabres. If not for a shaky opening five minutes in the second period the Leafs could have rung up their second straight win at the Alphabet Arena. The effort that the blue and white put forward went a long way to dispelling my earlier malaise. Update: I was remiss in not mentioning the great third period that Suglobov had Wednesday night. He finished his checks with gusto and was flying around the ice. Unfortunately, he barely got any ice time and will probably be sacrificed for Mats on Sunday. He is in a tough position but hopefully his future cameo appearances feature the same kind of commitment.

Following the general theme of the post here is...

The Final Word

The Leafs and Sabres set some kind of record for puzzled looks and waving arms in disgust at the referees.
Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, carefully avoids mentioning what was being said about the refereeing during the game.
The tone of tonight’s game was set very early in the first period by the officials. This game was one of the most over-officiated games that fans have witnessed in a while.
Mark,, sums up the refereeing perfectly.

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Leafs 4 v. Islanders 2: Premature Exultation

Game Recap

The Leafs teased their fans with an excellent first period that was followed by 40 minutes of listless hockey. I could not really put my finger on my mood over these past few games but it finally hit me during the third period: anxiety.

I have constantly felt that the games have been on the verge of getting away from the Leafs. This has not necessarily been because the other team has been dominating because for most of the past 180 minutes the Leafs have been carrying the play. Rather, it was because I felt that if the opposition were to get their noses in front (or level in this game's case) that the Leafs did not possess the driving force necessary to assert themselve on the game. In short, I miss Mats Sundin.

His presence would likely have been the difference in the two previous games when so many chances went wanting and in this game he probably would not have allowed the Leafs to enter the lull that opened the door for the Islanders. Thankfully, Paul Maurice is cut from the same competitive cloth and video of him berating the team on the bench reinforced my belief that he will not allow this team to enter any extended down spells.

As for this game, the first period was everything the Leafs' coach expects from his team. Actually, there is no way he expected to see Wade Belak, who took the place of Brendan Bell, help open the scoring by delivering a pin-point pass to John Pohl after jumping in the rush. Wellwood added a goal after Nik Antropov calmly slid him a pass at the side of the net after intercepting a loose puck. Frodo faked a shot, I would have killed him if he passed, before slotting the puck in the yawning cage. Darcy Tucker added to the scoring, and his future paycheck, with a powerplay goal. The only downside to the period was Ian White's terrible giveaway for the first goal. Since I questioned his defensive ability White has really stepped up his game in the Leafs' end. He still has the habit of occasionally throwing the puck up the boards in panic before checking to see if anyone is there to receive it. On this occasion, the Islanders quickly created a one-timer for Chris Simon who made no mistake blowing it past Raycroft's glove hand.

The Leafs were rolling and it seemed like this game would at least mirror the 9-6 shootout for the home team. However, a strange thing happened to the boys in blue and white. They stopped doing the little things that had resulted in their 3-1 lead. Despite seemingly being in control of the penalty kill the Islanders added a second when the box was slow to react to Yashin's move to its centre and he one-timed a pass to Jason Blake who slapped it past Raycroft's outstretched left leg.

Eventually the Leafs iced the game with a Ponikarovsky powerplay goal that resulted from some good work by fellow former Soviet Bloc member Nik Antropov and the delightfully small Kyle Wellwood. The mood post-game was startingly desultory considering the victory and that is refreshing. Too often it has been good enough for the Leafs to just win. While there is nothing wrong with grinding out results a Leafs team that depends on contributions from the younger/unproven set needs them to learn to win as a result of good habits not because of the poor display of their opposition.

Because I like it so much, here is...

The Final Word
The reason was coach Paul Maurice, who was in no mood for in-house glee even though his club snapped a two-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.
Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, highlights Paul Maurice's clear displeasure with the Leafs' effort after the first period.
No Islanders viewpoint because no one cares enough to write about

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Leafs 1 v. Devils 2: Swedish Surprise

Game Recap

The Leafs gave a better account of themselves last night but in the end it was the same story as Thursday night. The Devils were intent on stifling the Leafs and with Brodeur in net it was always going to be a difficult proposition to score. Mikael Tellqvist got the surprise start as J-S Aubin was felled by a stomach bug (don't the team doctors give flu shots?) and he was solid when called upon.

Jamie Langenbrunner opened the scoring in the second period after a Leafs turnover left him alone at the top of the circle. He blasted a shot that beat Telly (he would probably want it back) on the blocker side. In the third period, Patrick Elias scored his first even strength goal of the year on what will turn out to be the oddest goal of the season. His shot ricocheted off Kubina and Bell redirected it into the net when he tried to swat it out of the air. Unfortunately, on a night when the top line of the Soviet Bloc and Frodo managed 10 shots but no goals, it was one goal too many. I think I might stop writing Game Day Thoughts since the opposition seems to fulfill my worse-case scenario even though a player like Elias hadn't scored an EV goal all year. I feel like John Candy in Delirious.

Darcy Tucker pulled on back on a slap shot from the blueline that Brodeur absolutely wiffed on but it was all the struggling Leafs offence could muster. The last four minutes saw a flurry of action but it was all for naught as the Devils crammed every available player into the slot which made getting a shot through next to impossible.

This game also featured two instances of what I think is the dumbest penalty: slashing the stick. Jeff O'Neill and Hal Gill both got called for this infraction as they each slapped the stick out of a Devils' players hands. When I was in minor hockey this was something that made you laugh at the player that dropped the stick in the NHL apparently it's a heinous crime. What is most frustrating is that the refs are so maddeningly inconsistent. Throughout the game Devils players were slashing Leafs' forwards sticks in front of the net without a call. Also, sometimes the refs only call it if the stick breaks but not if it's knocked out of a player's hands. Basically, it is a stupid rule. A slash is to the body otherwise it's tying up the players stick and if he drops it then that should teach him to get a better grip on it. Rant over.

Monday night the Leafs face the resurgent Islanders as Raycroft returns to the net and Suglobov takes Belak's place in the lineup to try to jumpstart

The Final Word
The Devils needed him last night, playing most of the first two periods in their own end.
Rich Chere, The Star-Ledger, pinpoints the difference between the teams.

Entering the season, one of the major concerns about Toronto was its ability to find goal production from players other than Sundin. The Leafs found scoring depth for a while, with Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky, in particular, asserting themselves. Now, it's almost as if, with Sundin sidelined because of a torn ligament in his right elbow, those pre-season prophecies of gloom are starting to be fulfilled.
Paul Hunter, Toronto Star, showing that if you hammer a story long enough it will eventually come true, kind of.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006


Here are pictures from my trip to the ACC last Saturday for the Hall of Fame Game. The first one is blurry because we were literally as far away from the ice as possible. There were just numbers on the wall telling us where to sit.

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Past inductees into the Hall of Fame welcome the Class of 2006

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By the second period we had made the PPP move of the game to a pair of empty golds beside friends of mine. Hurray for apathetic fans!
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One half of the Soviet Bloc looks to change while Antro decides whether to forecheck or to join Poni on the bench.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Leafs 1 v. Bruins 2: Death by a Million Paper Cuts

Game Recap

If I had six words to describe the game then the post title would do just fine. The Leafs looked very much like a team that just had 5 days off. Despite putting forth a decent effort things were just not clicking. They were fighting the puck all night long and found themselves either getting their shots blocked (15), missing the net (8), or having the puck jump over their stick (a million). This is a point in the standings that can be attributed to one man: J-S Aubin. He was unbelievable and made a string of last ditch saves.

The Leafs struggle is summed up by the Antro-Welly-Poni line's results. The Soviet Bloc and Frodo did good work in the corners, cycled the puck well, won battles for the puck, and were generally the only line to consistently trouble the Bruins. However, they were unable to score despite some great half-chances.

As expected, it came down to special teams and when you are playing the most penalized team in the league (over 17 min/game) you expect a few powerplays. Apparently, the Bruins played their cleanest game of the year as they gave up only two powerplays. Luckily, McCabe, who has apparently learned that getting a wrist shot through is more valuable than blasting a slapshot, scored on a well placed, low wrist shot after Wellwood won the draw.

Unfortunately, the Bruins powerplay used their secret bank pass off the boards to get Kessel a goal. Aside from some dodgy passes, this was Aubin's only mistake. He should have cut the rebound out but those Beantown boards seem extra bouncy. That is the second goal in two games that gets scored in the exact same fashion.

Pavel Kubina's return was inauspicious. He did some good work along the boards in his own end but he looked tentative with the puck and his timing was a bit off. Bates Battaglia continues to impress with his play and he has been rewarded with what seems to be a permanent spot on the Sandpaper Line with Peca and Tucker. Jeff O'Neill continued his great season in the face-off circle with 5 wins out of 7. And since Belak does not really fight could we get one of the Marlies up? Maybe Westrum or Leeb? Would it really hurt the Leafs to give our fourth line a bit more offensive skill?

All in all, it was a game that was hard to follow. It was especially painful as the Bruins apparently read my comments denigrating them and decided to play well. The Bruins tried to set up shop in their own end in the third before McCabe tied it and then they won it on a Patrice Bergeron goal in OT. It was a point stolen entirely by J-S Aubin who made some ridiculous saves in the third to keep the game at 1-0 on a night when it looked like the Leafs would never score. The rust from the team's longest layoff all season is off and the Devils are up next Saturday night. They play for their honour tonight in Ottawa so hopefully the Leafs can do better against a tired opponent. The brightside of the loss: the sens are now in last place in the Northeast.

The Final Word

Lewis said later he had his shooters recently employ the off-net shooting strategy as an option for when the opposition blocks, or negates, the shooting lane. It's not the shortest route to the net, but it has become effective.
Kevin Paul Dupont, Boston Globe, confirming my thought that the first goal was a set play.

If the Leafs had anything to be thankful for, it was another wonderful outing from goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin, making his second consecutive start in place of the injured Andrew Raycroft.
Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, makes the understatement of the week.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leafs v. Bruins: Game Day Thoughts

Ok, after some technical difficulties everything is back to normal. The recaps for the Bruins game last Thursday and Montreal game on Saturday are up just below this post. Tomorrow, I will have pictures of the Saturday game, a recap of tonight's game, and another installment of the Results Comparison.

Also, visit The Battle of Ontario site where yours truly was selected as one of two Leafs contributors. This site will continue to focus on the Leafs while the other will be mainly as an outlet to mock the senators and rub any Leafs success in their face. Thanks to those that supported my candidacy over at the BoO. We Did It!

Without further ado, here are some thoughts on tonight's game:

The Leafs return to Boston tonight to contest the second in a string of games that would make Bill Murray question his sanity. Of course, during the Leafs last visit our number 1 goalie pulled his groin during a 6-4 triumph and Andrew Raycroft remains in the press box where he shares wobbly pops with The Captain. JS Aubin will be handling the tending duties and he will have the Leafs newest father (congrats to Steen too) Pavel Kubina patrolling the front of the net. This will be only the fourth game in which the Leafs $20M defence will be together.

Keys to the Game
  • Goaltending: Last time out the Leafs got it and the Bruins, hilariously, did not. The Leafs managed to get outshot 17-10 in the first period but left with a 3-0 lead. Tim Thomas will probably get the start tonight and will try to improve on the team's horrendous 3.8GA/game.

  • Shooting: The Leafs would do well to pepper the net with shots. Considering that the Bruins are 28th in shots against at 33/game and Toronto is 1st in shots for at 35.1/game I expect it to resemble a shooting gallery.

  • Special Teams: It will be a battle of the nines as the ninth-ranked powerplay (Boston) will face the ninth-ranked penalty kill (Toronto). The Bruins won this battle last time going 2 for 5 but it was not enough. Clearly they will want to keep the PP off the ice (Discipline boys!) but they also have to ensure that Boston's speedsters like Patrice Bergeron and Phil Kessel are not able to isolate Hal Gill. He is great in the stationary penalty kill but I think the word 'lumbering' was invented to describe his skating. Kind of like 'shaky' was invented to describe Ottawa's goaltending.

  • Stepper-uppers: The Soviet Bloc will have to continue their strong play. Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky combined for 3 goals, 3 assists, and were +8 last Thursday. Both players used their size to torment the Bruins defence and Poni used his speed to create scoring chances. If both players continue their recent strong play then the Bruins will be hard pressed to find an answer as, despite being the size of a sequoia, Chara can only cover one player at a time.

Overall, if the Leafs can play their puck pressure game they should be in good shape. The Bruins defence is suspect past Ottawa Old Boy Zdeno Chara and the Bruins offence is top-line heavy. Boston is probably tired from chasing AO around the ice last night. If Tim Thomas is more Gerber than Raycroft then the Leafs should prevail.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Leafs 5 v. Habs 1: An Inspired Performance

Game Recap

Saturday's game was the first of three games for which I managed to scrounge up tickets. As luck would have it (I had no idea when ordering the tickets) Saturday was also the Hall of Fame game in addition to being on Remembrance Day. When I realized that the Leafs would be having a pre-game ceremony I panicked because the Leafs tend to play terribly in these types of games.

The festivities featured veterans from WWII and Afghanistan and the brave soldiers earned themselves the loudest cheer of the night. Patrick Roy's induction to the Hall of Fame on Monday night led to a higher than usual preponderance of Canadiens fans but both sides united in ensuring that those that truly deserved to be cheered felt their countrymen's appreciation for their sacrifice.

For a recap of the game check out Ninja over at Raking Leafs.

You get a vastly different experience when you are at the game live rather than watching it on TV. A lot of that has to do with being a bit out of the loop compared to when you have Pierre McGuire talking 100 words a minute. For example, when Peca caught a puck in the mouth I had no clue the extent of the damage. When he did not return I was panicked. Thankfully, it was just a bit of dental work (read: A LOT). Some of it has to do with the purity of the experience. It is not like a basketball game where piped-in music blares throughout the play. The only sounds are the game and the fans. It's nice.

The other aspect concerns those fans. At the ACC there is a clear dividing line between the upper bowl and the lower bowl. The upper bowl started 'Goodbye' and 'Go Leafs Go' many times only for it to die out as the lower bowl turned their nose up at something so base as chanting. I was lucky enough to be able to sneak into gold seats beside two friends where we encountered a young girl that counted down each period's last minute (that's right, 60, 59, 58) and yelled 'PSYCH!' each time a Hab took a shot. The saddest thing was that we tried to get a 'Go Leafs Go' chant going but were met with silence twice. Even after we accused the entire section of being terrible fans and not deserving to be at the game they still did not speak up. I understand why they were not impressed with yells of 'SLASH HIM!' or 'MOVE YOUR ASS ANTRO!' but cheers? and clean ones? sad.

Later we found that it is quite common for season ticket holders to sell their playoff tickets to pay for the entire regular season hence the increase in 'real' fans. I wish they would sell regular season games too because it makes for a terrible atmosphere.

Aside from the goals, a great play was when Antropov nailed Komisarek right into the Leafs bench. Komisarek is a big boy but Antro just launched him into the bench. Unsurprisingly, considering out section, we were the only ones roaring with laughter.

All in all, the game was great, the Leafs really took it to the Habs and made them pay for their lack of discipline and aim (two delay of game penalties? welcome to the league). Aubin was solid and there were only two defensive breakdowns where the players were running around the zone. The golds get delivery service so we never even had to deal with the long lineups. And, to be fair, while the atmosphere is crap during the play when the Leafs score everyone goes nuts (except the guy that got a litte bit of beer spilled on his seat. He was shooting us daggers instead. Thank God my mom insists on putting kleenex in my jacket or he might have fought us.) I guess the rest of the time the lower bowl just wants some peace and quiet to get their hearing back.

A simple installment of...

The Final Word
These are the bravest guys in the world.
Don Cherry, HNIC, during a Coaches Corner tribute to the Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Leafs 6 v. Bruins 4: Stepping Up

Game Recap

Raking Leafs has a good recap of the game here. There were quite a few good things as well as a couple of troublesome things and one or two terrible things. At the risk of being labelled a thief, here is the spaghetti western wrap-up of the game:

The Good

  • The Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of some good hustle (Jeff O'Neill beating Chara in a footrace to set up Tucker), a nice re-direct by Peca, and a good deflection by Kilger on a McCabe point shot that actually made it through.

  • The Soviet Bloc showed that the Ukraine is not weak and a Kazakhs favourite pastime is NOT disco dancing. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov had a great game in which they combined for three goals, three assists and a +8 plus/minus rating. Poni's speed and size helped set up Antro's first goal as he charged down the wing and cut in for a shot before Nik muscled the rebound in. They were also on the ice in the last minute when Poni found Antro for an empty netter.

  • The Leafs did not fold when the Bruins started their third period comeback. It would have been easier to have a repeat of the Devils fiasco and blamed it on Sundin's absence but the Leafs held it together and came out with two points.

  • Everyone contributed to a win in the Captain's absence. Wellwood mixed well with the Soviet Bloc, the Sandpaper Line (Peca, Tucker, Bates/Kilger) contributed offensively (Congrats on the 400th point Mike!) and defensively, and McCabe continued to contribute offensively, which based on his lack of defensive contribution, he must do in order to earn his salary.

The Bad

  • The fact that the Leafs allowed the Bruins back into the game at all is a bit disconcerting. A failure to step on a wounded team's throat has cost the sens dearly and it would not do to imitate the ballerinas from Ottawa (thanks Smitty!) in this regard. The worst part is that the Leafs looked to have finished the game twice: when they made it 4-0 early in the second and when they made it 5-1 soon after the first Bruins goal.

  • The penalty kill allowed two goals on five chances. This rejuvenated penalty kill has to operate at a high level all year if the Leafs are going to succeed. The team has done well to reduce the number of penalties against them and they have allowed only one goal against on an incredible ten 5-on-3s. However, in games in which the team is trying check the opposition's momentum the PK has to perform in the third. Can you tell I am stretching for something bad?
The Ugly

  • The injury to Andrew Raycroft. This is not so much ugly because of the impact of the injury, since I have always felt that JS Aubin could handle the starting duties and it was a relatively minor injury, but because of the nature and timing of the injury. Raycroft had just begun to hit a rich vein of form and a groin pull can be a notoriously linger-y (TM) injury. From all accounts, the Leafs are taking their time with the injury so that it will not reach the chronic stage.

In what must be an especially bittersweet installment for Andrew Raycroft...

The Final Word
Last night, it was a leaky Boston defense, which has made it a habit recently of fattening their netminders' goals-against averages and sizzling their psyches, that once again led to a Boston goalie -- it was Tim Thomas' turn last night -- getting yanked by his coach.
Fluto Shinwaza, Boston Globe, makes the Bruins wish they had not given up on Raycroft.
Leaf head coach Paul Maurice can live without the added drama of seeing his No.1 netminder get hurt. His club was already reeling without Sundin, gone for up to a month with a wonky right elbow, and still without defenceman Pavel Kubina, who left the team to be with his girlfriend in the Czech Republic for the delivery of the couple's first child.
Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, gets me wondering if they make Raid for injury bugs.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Life of Bryan

(Note: This is a submission written in the hopes of becoming the new Leafs commentator at The Battle of Ontario. Please go over there and support me. It is a nice piece of schadenfreude)

With the Senators in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and mired in mailaise since the beginning of the season the calls for the heads of John Muckler and Bryan Murray have become louder and more urgent. The case for Muckler's firing has been laid out pretty conclusively but why get rid of Murray? Well, mostly because his tenure has already peaked. sens fans have already lived the Bryan Murray Experience. All that is left is the inevitable firing.

Here, cherry-picked to prove a point, are the season's relevant to Senators fans:

1983-84: Washington Capitals 48-27-5 .631 Lost in Round 2

1984-85: Washington Capitals 46-25-9 .631 Lost in Round 1

1985-86: Washington Capitals 50-23-7 .669 Lost in Round 2

1991-92: Detroit Red Wings 43-25-12 .613 Lost in Round 2

1992-93: Detroit Red Wings 47-28-9 .613 Lost in Round 1

2005-06: Ottawa Senators 52-21-9 .689 Lost in Round 2

Those last three playoff exits are famous for their meeknes.

1991-92 saw the Wings cough up a 3-1 series lead to the San Jose Sharks.

1992-93 will be familiar to Leaf fans as Nikolai Borchevsky became a folk hero with a Game 7 OT winner (how is that clip NOT on YouTube?) after the Wings coughed up another 3-1 series lead.

2005-06 as everyone saw on TV ended as the team captain and top defenceman watched a 3rd line grinder skip past them both and score the series winner...shorthanded.

Six times Murray has coached a team to a plus-.600 winning percentage only to bow out meekly in the first or second round.

Muckler's failures are documented, Murray's shortcomings are evident, and the less said about the Senators players' mental toughness (see: Playoffs) the better.

The answer to the survey is secret answer e: Fire Muckler, Fire Murray, and make a trade for a proven leader.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Round and Round We Go

Just as the Leafs are rolling and the blueline is slowly moving towards being completely healthy someone went and tore a ligament. Unfortunately, that ligament resides in Mats Sundin's elbow.
I am Mats' total lack of surprise.

Thankfully, the Leafs have just finished one of their busiest stretches of the season and have entered on in which Mats could miss anywhere from 7-12 games (3-4 weeks is the prognosis) depending on whether his famed ability to heal quickly has stood the test of time. Shoalts feels that the captain's absence will hurt much more now than during his eye-induced vacation last season. Rather than worry me this situation reminds me of one of Shakespeare's most well-known lines:
Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.
- Act II, Scene V, Twelfth Night
Luckily this comes during November rather than April. The Leafs have had a reputation recently of being able to roll with injuries (Playoffs 2002, Mats' absence last year) and this year has been no different. The youngsters and reclamation projects have a great chance to show that they are ready for prime time.

Kyle Wellwood started the season brightly but has tailed off. The game in Buffalo was his best game in a while and it will be vital to the Leafs' success that he carry that momentum forward. He will most like centre Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky to create the forwards answer to Fred and Barney (Gill and White). Clearly, Paul Maurice has quite the sense of humor if he is going to use the Soviet Bloc to bookend the Leafs' smallest forward.

Matt Stajan has been one of the Leafs best forwards this season and his incredible workrate has been vital in helping Jeff O'Neill in his path towards a renaissance. Add Alex Steen to the mix and this will probably be a line that will be depended upon for offence. Paul Maurice earlier noted that Steen had maybe taken his defensive focus too much to heart (playing with Peca will make you do that). This will be a perfect opportunity for his to showcase the offensive talents that led to a 45 point season last year as the line will probably see more powerplay time.

What other steps Maurice takes to address Mats' absence are anyone's guess. Judging by his line juggling they probably would not be good guesses. However, between tomorrow's game against Boston and Mats' return (Nov 28th against Boston at the earliest and hopefully December 7th against Boston at the latest barring surgery) the Leafs' coaching staff will learn a lot about their young forwards. Ian White and Brendan Bell continue to do admirable jobs while the Leafs deal with injuries on the backline. What will be seen is which of the forwards grabs their chance at greatness.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Leafs 4 v. Flyers 1: Harder Than It Had To Be

Game Recap

Andrew Raycroft is having quite a run of results. Monday morning, his excellent work last week (3-0-0, 1.67 GAA, .943 SV%) led to him being recognized by the league as the week's number two star. Monday night, he took another step towards rehabilitating his status as a top goaltender with a 40 save performance to steal a 4-1 decision for the Leafs. The score is not indicative of a game where the Flyers controlled the majority of play. It is at the same time reassuring that Raycroft stole his first game as a Leaf and worrisome that he had to do it against the NHL's worst team.

To be fair, the first two periods hinged mostly on penalties. In the first period the Leafs were skating hard and moving the puck well. Those two generally add up to penalties against and the Flyers spent much of the first period shorthanded. Unfortunately, the Leafs' powerplay did not capitalize although I suspect it was mostly done out of pity and the fact that Antero Niittymaki travelled back in time to get his February 2006 self in net. The Leafs left the period with a 1-0 lead on a Bates Battaglia goal on a beautiful play where he held off Hatcher (now on pace to be -930) as he came around the net and spun and fired a shot into the top corner.

The second period was literally the opposite of the first. The team in orange and black (wasn't Hallowe'en last week?) were clearly berated into realizing that they play in the NHL during the intermission. They caught the Leafs off-guard with their 'effort' and 'determination', two things that cellar dwellars are not supposed to show on the road, and the Leafs promptly got into penalty trouble. As is becoming usual, the penalty kill was once again spectacular. Hal Gill did an incredible job of using his long reach and big body to cut off any cross ice pass while Mike Peca continued to dislay an almost nonchalant ease while winning faceoffs and clearing the puck. The Leafs have now killed 30 of the last 31 shorthanded opportunities against and have moved into the top 10. For a team that finished last year 24th on the PK this is a massive improvement. Raycroft did a wonderful job in stopping 16 of 17 shots but Ben Eager was able to bury one when a bad line change resulted in him being sent in alone.

Rather than fold now that the momentum was clearly in the Flyers' favour the Leafs decided to get back in the fight. The third period was much more evenly matched but it eventually turned on a powerplay. The newly re-united trio of Sundin, Ponikarovsky, and Antropov created the winner after Sundin won his third straight offensive zone faceoff. Bryan McCabe took a page out of Ian White's book and threw a hard wrist shot between two Flyers that resulted in a rebound. Mats and Poni scrambled it in front until the lanky Kazakh (his official title) Nik Antropov was able to use his size and reach to crash the scrum and bury the winner. Is nii-ice.

The not-so weak Ukranian Ponikarovsky scored a third to ice the game after White muscled the puck into the neutral zone. Poni carried the puck over the blueline before rifling a shot past Niittymaki's glove and into the top corner. Tomas Kaberle finished the scoring with an empty netter that capped off a nice series of unselfish passes from O'Neill to Stajan to Steen who passed up a chance at a goal.

While Raycroft and the kids (Steen, Stajan, White, Bell, Wellwood) have garnered a lot of the attention this season one of the more unheralded stories has been that of Bates Battaglia. His goal last night was not only his fourth of the season but it also displayed his physical strengths. He held off Hatcher while still being able to control the puck while completing a nice spin move and fired a hard shot into the net. He has shown a willingness to crash and bang each shift this season and Maurice has rewarded him more ice-time and promotions up the lines. Last night he skated most of his time with Mike Peca. Battaglia has been a good example to the youngsters of the effort that is necessary on every shift and may be the Leafs' most underrated addition along with Hal Gill.

And with a renewed focus on the man of the hour...

The Final Word
His teammates launched a season-high 41 shots at goalie Andrew Raycroft last night at the Air Canada Centre, but came away with only one goal in a 4-1 loss to the oronto Maple Leafs. The critical difference? The Flyers' hideous power play, which is 7 for 87 this season. It was a one-goal game with five minutes to play and the Flyers had already failed seven times with the man advantage.
Tim Panaccio, Philadelphia Inquirer, highlights the importance of the Leafs rejuvenated penalty kill to last night's victory.

The Leafs can be thankful for Andrew Raycroft and the way he pulled out a win last night with some spectacular goaltending. They can also be thankful the 26-year-old from Belleville possesses a stone-hard resolve to better himself.
Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, noting that despite some bad numbers against the sens that Raycroft maintained belief in his abilities.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Great Team Talks in History

This is a classic video of a halftime talk by Leyton Orient's manager John Sitton during the 1994-1995 campaign. After seeing Maurice yelling during practice between the two Ottawa debacles what are the odds that his post-game talk on Thursday night sounded something like this:

That would certainly explain the massive difference between the effort against Florida and Saturday night's gem.


Leafs 4 v. Sabres 1: Are You Phoenix in Disguise?

Game Recap

Flipping a coin might give you a better idea of what Leafs team will show up on any given night. On Thursday night the Leafs came out flat and were never in the game against Florida. On Saturday night the Leafs gave one of their best performances this season and handed the top team in the league their first regulation loss. For long stretches of the game the Leafs made Buffalo look ordinary. Despite pre-game reports that newly fanatical Sabres supporters would cram the Alphabet Arena there was a massive contingent of blue and white clad Leaf fans. The traveling contingent reveled in the win and did so loudly. Chants of ‘Miller’ and ‘Overrated’ filled the air with a rousing rendition of the Steam classic “Goodbye”. It's too bad they don't know the classic football song from the post title. It's always a good way to rile up a team.

This great game by the Leafs followed the same pattern as their other strong performances. The Leafs neutralized the high flying Sabres offence through the first 40 minutes with a determined forecheck that kept the defencemen from making the crucial first pass. Whenever the opportunity presented itself the Leafs were taking the body. Even Wellwood was hitting and he provided one of the highlights of the night with his physical play. He saw Spacek had him lined up in the neutral zone and he ducked down and flipped him over his hip.

The Leafs defensive coverage was the best it has been in a number of games. What few shots Raycroft faced in the first two periods were unscreened and any rebounds were cleared. It seemed to be a bad omen when Hecht opened the scoring by beating Bell to the outside and sliding the puck under Raycroft who was ready to pokecheck in anticipation of Hecht cutting in front of the net. To his credit, Raycroft shut the door and made a number of great saves in the third when the team ran into penalty trouble.

In such a complete performance it is tough to highlight any standouts. It’s tough but not impossible. Mats Sundin was, as usual, a standout with two goals, an assist, and some good work killing penalties. Matt Stajan continued to be a revelation this season and his hard work was rewarded with an assist on O’Neill’s fifth of the season. Ian White made a spectacular pass to set-up Mats’ second of the game and played one of his best games of the season in his own end. Bates Battaglia played like a guy that wants more ice-time.

The only lowlight of the game was the amount of diving by the Sabres. Last year when Hitchcock complained during the playoffs I thought it was just sour grapes. However, at times last night, especially the third period, I thought that I was watching a Serie A game the way blue-clad players were flying through the air. The worst one was Chicken Soup Campbell’s swan dive when he felt Sundin’s stick near him. About 15 seconds later on the powerplay the reigning flop-king Derek Roy felt Gill’s stick by his skates and proceeded to jump in the air and spin twice. Those were the two most obvious ones but enough to make Francesco Totti proud. Sabres fans will probably mention that Tucker stayed down a bit longer than necessary when Adam Mair drilled him from behind but in the words of Arsene Wenger, I didn’t see it. Maybe they’ll point to Ponikarovsky falling a bit easily when Roy grabbed his shoulder. I would say that Poni was knocked off one skate and pushed off with his last skate to get more strength on his dump-in. Whether you believe that homer explanation I think everyone could agree that watching this generation’s Bill Barber calling Poni a diver was a perfect illustration of irony.

The Leafs host the struggling Flyers on Monday. Let's hope that they do not play down to the competition's level. A similar performance will see the Flyers dispatched with ease and that will be a boon to the team's confidence before three straight divisional games against the Bruins (twice) and the Habs.

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
The Leafs forecheck causes a turnover behind the net. Ponikarovsky dished it to Wellwood on the right hashmarks who fired a hard pass into Sundin at the lip of the crease. He redirected it hard through Miller’s pads to tie the game.

Second Goal
On a 5-on-3 powerplay the Leafs moved the puck around to Mats Sundin who faked a shot and slapped a pass under Wellwood to Tucker who tapped in from his office. It was great to see everyone’s (outside of Toronto) most hated player pick up the game winning goal.

Third Goal
More pressure on the Sabres defence resulted in another goal. Steen poked the puck behind the net to Stajan who found Jeff O’Neill in the slot for a one-timer past Miller on the blocker side. O’Neill continues to get into good shooting spots and Stajan keeps finding him.

Fourth Goal
45 seconds after the third goal the Leafs pounce on a turnover at the blueline. Mats led a two-on-one and dropped a pass to Ian White who had jumped into the play. White faked a shot to bring the defender to his knees and then slid a perfect pass to Sundin who roofed a shot over Miller’s shoulder.

The Final Word
Sabres fans are used to seeing impressive displays of high-speed, hard-battling, super-skilled hockey. Usually, however, it's delivered by the home team, not the visitors; and, certainly, not the Maple Leafs. But in a table-turner, and one of Toronto's most complete efforts of the season, the Leafs beat the Sabres at their own game last night with a dominant 4-1 victory.
Paul Hunter, Toronto Star, who can count the Leafs fans among those that were surprised by the game.

The Maple Leafs obliterated them, 4-1, in front of a sellout crowd that was more locally partisan than it used to be yet still contained a vociferous enemy contingent daring enough to serenade the home team with chants of "o-ver-rated."
Tim Graham, Buffalo News, who probably did not enjoy the chanting as much as I did.

A quadruple indignity: 1) Losing to the leafs, 2) At home, with 3) Tucker getting the Game Winner while 4) Carolina coming back to win. Where’s my whiskey bottle?
Tom L, Sabre Rattling, summing up the feelings of Sabres fans everywhere.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Leafs v. Sabres: Game Day Thoughts

The Leafs travel to Alphabet Arena tonight to face the red-hot Buffalo Sabres. This first trip would have been more appropriate for Halloween since the buds' record in the home of good wings is 4-17-3 (ties) since the Sabres moved to the new rink. That record alone is enough to give you nightmares before you remember that in most games the Leafs have not even been close to winning.

A friend of mine went to see the sens there (yeah, I forgive him) and he tells me it is a shithole arena in a crappy part of town (the words 'particle board' were used to describe the walls by the upper bowl's highest reaches). That might explain why until last season this team had so much trouble drawing fans. Of course, now that they have tied the Leafs season best start (asterisk) and were one win away from the final the fans have found their way back. Good to see the bandwagon doing it's part to support the team. It's always baffled me that Leafs' fans get a bad rap for their loyalty from other fans (all of the Canadian teams) while those same fans demand loyalty from their players (see: Oilers, Edmonton). Why should they stick around if you are going to leave as soon as things turn bad?

Anyway, the net result of the Sabres success is that there will most likely be significantly fewer Leafs fans due to the increased season ticket sales. sens' fans might want to read that last sentence before they start complaining about the number of Leaf fans in Ottawa. This will probably mean that fewer Torontonians will be swearing up a storm on their trip back across the bridge.

The good news is that the Sabres played very badly against the Bruins. The bad news is that the Leafs were brutal against Florida. I won't make any predictions because when they are optimistic they are horribly off (see: games, Ottawa) and when they are pessimistic they are right. So tonight I predict that there will be hockey, Lindy Ruff will make some smartass comments while ignoring his team's proclivity for diving, and Andrew Peters will not get the retribution he deserves (if that lump of hockey crappiness even sees the ice). Go Leafs Go!

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Leafs 2 v. Panthers 4: Groundhog Day

Game Recap

The above link has changed from the scoresheet to Hockey-Recap's game report because, as you can see, it houses all of the game's information on one page. The best addition that has been made is the shift chart that shows all of the forward line and defence pairing permutations that are used in a game. Maurice's penchant for shuffling his lines in order to find a working set is evident in the sheer number of lines that the Leafs use compared to other teams and, most especially, Pat Quinn who seemed to prefer the roll the same four lines ad nauseum. At least Maurice seems to acknowledge that adjustments need to be made.

Unfortunately, the Leafs played another terrible first 40 minutes only that this time they were unable to recover in the third. They did make it close on the back of a 10 minute outburst of hockey but aside from that they seemed to have enjoyed their time in the sun too much to be bothered with playing a game. Clearly they did not care that some people had shelled out $10 to get a game atmosphere. What are the odds that the people in the best seats left early for each period and returned late?

Basically, nothing good can be written about this game other than that no one was injured. That is probably because no one threw a body check, blocked a shot, drove the net, or made an effort. I am literally quaking in fear of a repeat performance on Saturday. There are already some dire predictions being made; Ninja and Mad Hockey Blogger are not optimistic. I'll add that Buffalo are much better than Ottawa (and playing like it) and the Leafs actually played better against the Panthers than they did against Ottawa. Taking those two things into account makes me fear that double digits are attainable and not by the boys in blue (I mean the ones in blue and without a hideous slug on the front).

3 things from last night that scare me:
  1. The Leafs are going through the motions far too frequently. How professionals can blame the humidity of a building is beyond me. DRINK MORE WATER!

  2. Ian White is looking like a smaller and quicker version of Bryan McCabe. They both are struggling to clear the puck when under pressure (the Panthers' second goal resulted from White's panicked clearance). Both are terrible at hitting, Perezhogin undressed White because he put in a weak effort at hitting him and McCabe has missed his vaunted ass-check every time he has tried it. And both fall asleep in front of the net too often. In Ottawa White let a puck hit his skates and stay in the crease to be knocked in by Fisher instead of taking the body. McCabe last night watched a point shot sail by him and saw Olesz pot the rebound from the best seat in the house: right in the slot.

  3. The shots are drying up. The Leafs are among the league leaders in average shots but last night they were outshot 23-5!!!!!! in the first period. This team does not create enough off of the rush to be able to only take the good shots. In fact, they have to operate under the impression that there is no such thing as a bad shot.

I literally cannot write any more about last night's game without my will to cheer starting to leave my body. Unfortunately, there is one last part to write...

The Final Word
You couldn't have blamed anyone for leaving early last night from the Leafs' much-hyped first game on the big screen in Toronto theatres. This pooch, televised from the BankAmerica Centre, had no plot, no spark and no direction from a Toronto standpoint.
Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, compares last night's game to any of Paris Hilton's acting endeavours.

This season, the Panthers already have a victory in November and broke a six-game stranglehold the Leafs held over them; the Panthers hadn't defeated the Leafs since Feb. 25, 2004.
George Richards, Miami Herald, reminds the Leafs that they should win these games.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Leafs 4 v. Lightning 2: Opposite Day

Game Recap

The Leafs have strung together a 3 game win streak (beats our prevous best on the season by two!) and will head into Sunrise, Florida with a full head of steam. Paul Maurice, on the other hand, probably has a head full of steam that is ready to shoot out of his ears. Once again the Leafs were an enigma to their fans, their coach, and thankfully, to the Lightning.

In a game that could only be described as reminiscent of the childhood game Opposite Day. You remember the game. You nonchalantly walked up to a girl (that you secretly liked) and told her that you thought she was smart/pretty. Right when she was feeling good about herself you would yell 'Opposite Day!' before running back towards your buddies laughing. The reminds me of how much fun I had last Saturday night. However, instead of getting yelled at by a teacher the Leafs picked up a 4-2 win.

5 Things that made Maurice roll his eyes on the bench as the cameras were on him
  1. Despite ostensibly being 'tougher' to play against (and in fairness, the Leafs have shown that they possess that ability) Bitter Leaf has noted how often the opposite is in fact true. Last night was no different as the Leafs looked shell shocked to be playing a game in Florida instead of golfing. The Lightning were unlucky to leave the first period tied. Thankfully, I am not a Lightning fan.

  2. The Leafs defenceman handled all of the scoring. Yes, teams that succeed usually receive some offensive output from their defence but after Ian White notched the game winner on the PP (that is #3) the Leafs had let their defence score 7 of the last 10 goals. I would rather have 3 lines scoring than depend on our defence but then again have won our last 3 games so maybe it's the beginning of a rearguard-led offensive system.

  3. The Lightning's penalty kill has been terrible this season while the Leafs entered the game with the fourth best powerplay on the road. As soon as a reported mentioned this stat Paul Maurice thanked him for ruining his powerplay. He really should have been blaming Bryan McCabe who was atrocious. The powerplay looked lost on a four minute powerplay at the beginning of the game and if White had not scored they would have cost the Leafs the game.

  4. The impact players for the Leafs last night were some of the usual suspects but what was weird (based on everyone's hate) was seeing some of the...umm...less appreciated Leafs contributing to the win. Hal Gill scored the game tying goal and was again a rock on the PK (and just as fast), Jeff O'Neill picked up two assists and got into numerous good positions, and Nik Antropov played 8 strong shifts on the reunited top line with Ponikarovsky and Sundin while picking up an assist and almost setting up a couple of other goals. What do they have in common? I have been a supporter of all three (Nik is clearly the hardest to defend) and they have done well to make me look like I know more than just some homer. My suggestion to Bryan McCabe: get into my good books and pick up that karmic boost. A cash donation will work wonders.

  5. The Leafs played like crap for 40 minutes and then stole the game in the third. This is clearly the inspiration for the post's title since dominate for 40 minutes and have the game stolen has been much more common this season. In fact, this was just the 2nd time in 39 games that the Leafs have won after entering the third period behind.

All in all, if the Leafs keep playing sinfully boring games and winning then I will get on board with this new strategy. However, I am guessing that Maurice would like to see the team that was on the ice in the third more than the one that started the game. And can Alex Steen please start scoring. Most fans only look at stats and do not notice your hard work on the cycle and your increased physical presence. They want goals and I want them to shut up.

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
Tomas 'Wesley' Kaberle continues to show that if any defenceman should be on the wing it's him. Alex Steen set up this goal with a nice move to the inside past the Lightning defenceman (Sarich?) but he was unable to get a shot off. O'Neill picked up the puck and curled towards the boards and held the puck until he saw Snipes open on the far side. Jeff slid a perfect pass to him on right side and Tomas' shot hit both of Denis' pads before sliding in. That was the 300th point of his career which almost matches the total he is on pace for after this outburst.

Second Goal
Another lucky bounce. A good Leafs forecheck caused the Lightning to make a bad pass up the left boards. Gill kept the puck in and fired a shot on net (note to defencemen: low and hard is better than high and wide) which was deflected by a defender and slid into the net.

Third Goal
The powerplay finally connects! Ian White scoops up a loose puck and fires home the winner. Stajan had tried to hit him sneaking down from the point but it was knocked away and eventually found its way to his stick.

Fourth Goal
Antropov makes nice deflection of White's pass to Sundin who hit a streaking Ponikarovsky who slid the puck into the empty net as he was falling.

The Final Word
But when it mattered most, when the score was tied in the third, Leafs defenseman Ian White found the back of the net during a power play, and Toronto skated off with a 4-2 victory.
Carter Gaddis, The Tampa Tribune, writing something that Leafs are used to reading about the other team. Feels good.

I thought it was an exceptionally good call.
Paul Maurice, Head Coach, describing his thoughts on Tampa's disallowed goal. He is probably the funniest coach in hockey. Aside from Jacques Martin that is. Of course, we are laughing with Paul.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Leafs 4 v. Thrashers 2: 86 Seconds of Fury

Game Recap

The Leafs hosted the first of their three games against Southeast opposition. In a rather dull game, they built a 2 goal lead on a McNeeley-esque 86 second powerplay rampage. This game followed the same script as the last 7 meetings: Leafs shut down Atlanta's high-powered offence, Leafs use powerplay to build lead, Atlanta throws dirty hits, Leafs win, and the sky is blue.

This game's cheap shot artists were Jim Slater who threw a vicious knee at Matt Stajan and Vitaly Vishnevski who tried to help take Mike Peca's mind off of any lingering groin pain by attempting to separate his head from his shoulders. After last year's gongshows, it's seems that maybe Pat Quinn wasn't that far off when he blamed Hartley for letting his players attempt to injure the Leafs.

Andrew Raycroft made 31 saves to pick up the win. The team defence did a great job of keeping shots to the outside and when the Thrashers did create quality chances he was there to stop them. Hal Gill and Mike Peca were vital to the penalty kill again. Peca, especially, was a one man crew on a 5-on-3 during the second period. All around the defence was much improved over the twin Ottawa debacles and hopefully this can give them some momentum as Pavel Kubina is getting close to returning to the lineup.

The powerplay went 3-for-3 in the first on the strength of two Darcy Tucker goals and a Tomas Kaberle laser. If he can keep shooting then that provides the Leafs with more ways to take advantage of using Bryan McCabe as a decoy. Mats Sundin picked up assists on all three goals as he ends his little mini-slump. Jeff O'Neill finished off the scoring with the kind of goal that should become more familiar. He pounced on a turnover, wheeled with speed, held off two defenders, and fired home between Lehtonen's pads. Each game he is moving closer to vindicating my belief in him.

All in all, it was the kind of game that helps builds a team's confidence. The special teams were great, a high-powered offence was shut down, and the goalie was sharp. In a departure from the normal course of events, instead of peppering a goalie with shots the Leafs lulled Lehtonen to sleep with only 22 shots. It's nice to win when outshot but the Leafs need to get back to firing at will.

From the blogosphere it's...

The Final Word
Another story of the past two games has been the return of Antropov. He seems to be working well on the fourth line with Bates and Pohl. I'm not going to pin any hopes on Nik providing more depth, but IF he can stay healthy he should be a solid contributor and maybe push the players above him on the depth chart. A Capitalized and Bolded 'if'.
Ninja, Raking Leafs, thinks another one of the projects that I support could be a useful contributor. That makes two of us now. Of course I do have hopes pinned on the lanky Kazakh. He better be succes or I will execute.

Is there a figure who causes the stomach of a Thrashers fan to burn with bile more than the goateed Darcy Tucker?
John Manasso, AJCSports Thrashers blog, joining the I hate Darcy club.

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