Leafs 4 v. Sabres 7: Aerial Hijinks
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, BfloBlog.com, sums up the refereeing perfectly.