Pension Plan Puppets: Leafs 4 v. Islanders 2: Premature Exultation

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

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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Blogger Wardo said...

I actually feel the opposite of you - this season, probably because of Maurice's influence, I get the gut feeling that Toronto always has the chance to get back INTO games, not lose them.

The Buffalo game the other night was a great example - the wind was taken from Toronto's sails on a few occasions, but they kept their foot on the pedal the entire night, and it was finally only a bad break (Raycroft) that caused the game to slip from their fingers.

The team, so far, doesn't give up, even if victory seems remote.

Although, the two Ottawa blowouts come to mind in direct contrast to these statements. Toronto looked overmatched in those games. But those are the only ones.

Sundin: I don't know if I'd go so far as to say he'd "likely" have been the difference in the games he was out - more like "possibly." But there's no doubt the impact he brings to games.

Go Leafs go!

1:36 PM

Blogger PPP said...


I re-read what I wrote and I realized that it was less than clear. What I meant to say was that in the New Jersey, Boston, and Islanders game I had that feeling.

I agree completely that Maurice's influence has lent the team a never-say-die attitude that was missing last year. Overall, on the season I have never really felt that they were out of it because Maurice has shown that he can get the guys to step up their games halfway through a game (the two Ottawa games were good examples. a little better finishing and they could have been a lot closer)

I would describe the feeling in those games not in terms of feeling that they would give up just that they didn't seem to haev enough 'je ne said quoi' to get back in the game. More of a lack of ideas and finishing (this is as close as I can get to putting what I felt was lacking into words) in those three games than a lack of effort.

I think it came across as an indictment of the season as opposed to a bad feeling the last three games gave me. The Buffalo game exemplified their new attitude and certainly ended that particular malaise I was feeling.

Go Leafs Go!

3:48 PM


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