Monday, March 30, 2009

Those Who Could And Those Who Couldn't

Just before the season started, on October 2nd, I published a post about 7 Leaf players who all had a chance to notch their 100th career assist this season. I didn't think they would all do it, but I thought it would be interesting to see who could and couldn't, and also thought it would be a good way of measuring the team's success overall. Well, we're pretty close to the end now with just 6 games to go, so let's have a look and see who did, and who didn't, reach this mini-milestone.

Mark Bell only needed 5 assists to reach the 100-mark for what started out as a promising career. Unfortunately for Mark, he hasn't had one assist this year because he hasn't appeared in a single NHL game, not even for the Rangers. It's kind of puzzling that Mark Bell was able to pick up 10 points (4G 6A) last year despite a cracked orbital bone and jail time looming in the summer, yet this year, with all of that now behind him, he's been unable to find a spot on an NHL roster.

Mike Van Ryn needed only 9 assists for #100 in his career. Let's see what I had to say about his chances of reaching that mark at the beginning of the year: "...if he plays a full season, it should be no problem". Well, sadly, Van Ryn has played nowhere near a full season. The new Colaiacovo has appeared in just 27 games in an injury-plagued season, picking up a total of 8 assists, leaving him one shy of the magic 100 mark. While Van Ryn's tragic season is over, I only hope he nails that 100th assist in the season opener next year for an auspicious start to a year of better fortune in 2010.

Jamal Mayers needed 13 assists to hit the milestone, and at the beginning of the season I thought he had a good chance to get there based on his previous 2 seasons ('07 14A, '08 15A). This year, Mayers has only been able to pick up 7 assists so far, his lowest total since 2004. It's probably safe to assume that Jamal is not getting the opportunities or the ice time that he enjoyed in St. Louis, but still, I would have liked to have seen a little more from Jamal, especially early on. Unless Mayers can somehow break out with 6 assists in the last 6 games, this one is also a miss.

Niklas Hagman needed 15 to get there. This one was easier then I thought it would be. On February 7th, Hagman recorded his 99th and then 100th career assist in the 3rd period of a 5-2 win over those dirty Habs. Hagman currently has 18 assists on the year (103 career now), equalling his previous single season high in just 59 games, and looks sure to set a new standard for himself as he returns to the line-up for the Leafs' final stretch. I've been really impressed with Hagman's all-round abilities - a feisty checker and a natural scorer with 20 goals this season -  as the playmaking side of his game is progressing well.

Alexei Ponikarovsky needed 17 and it wasn't even close. Poni blew this one out of the water. With 35 so far on the season, 1 behind Stajan for the team lead, Alexei now sits at 118 career assists. Poni's numbers this year don't just look good, they look great. He is 2 behind Blake for the team lead in goals and points and may catch him in both categories before the season ends. With Poni absolutely blossoming in the absence of Antro, it's quite conceivable that when the season ends, Poni will be leading the Leafs in all offensive categories, except on the powerplay. He also leads the team in plus/minus at +8 (no one else is above +2!) and is one of only 2 Leafs (Kubina the other) to appear in all 76 games this year for the Blue and White. Suddenly, Ponikarovsky looks like this season's best candidate for Maple Leafs' MVP.

Alex Steen needed 26. This one looked tough at the beginning of the year, but Steen had totalled 27 assists twice before in his career (2006, 2008), so it seemed within his reach. Well, after starting the season with 2 assists in his first 20 games, the chase for 100 was already over, and Steen was dealt, along with Carlo Colaiacovo, to St. Louis for Lee "2-for-1 special" Stempniak. In 55 games this year with St. Louis, Steen's numbers have returned to near-respectable levels; 6G, 15A, giving him 91 career assists in just his 4th NHL season. While it's still very early in his career, it is disappointing to see him take a step backwards this season, and it was probably the right move to help him find his game somewhere else.

Matt Stajan needed 29 assists to get to 100. This was the one that I said was the "longshot". In order for Stajan to reach the milestone he needed to have a career year, and that's exactly what he's done. 36 assists, so far. In 2006-7 Stajan recorded exactly 29 assists, so I knew he could do it, but still, I find it utterly astonishing that he has easily surpassed that total by 7 with a half-dozen games to go on the schedule. Even more astonishing when one realizes that Stajan has hardly played that well lately, but has still managed to pick up 9 assists in his last 18 games, keeping him on pace for 40. Did anybody, I mean, really, ANYBODY predict Stajan would have a 40-assist season? Well, he's very close. Six games left, 4 assists to go, and he's there. Not bad for a player I once referred to as the "Invisible Matt".

So there you have it. 3 for 7. Bell, Van Ryn, Mayers, and Steen fail to reach the 100 asssist milestone this year, while, maybe surprisingly, Hagman, Stajan, and Ponikarovsky all achieved that plateau with ease. When I wrote the original post at the beginning of the season, I predicted that we could measure the Leafs' success based on how many achievers we had in this group. Here's the correlating prediction for 3 out of 7: "Hmmm. Easy come, easy go, I guess. We suck, but probably not bad enough to get Tavares." Not exactly a bold prediction but it sounds about right. Easy come, easy go. Don't get too excited, but a pick in the top 5 is still a real possibility.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thanks, Damien

I have to admit, I've been having a blast this week. A lot of good things have been happening, including the Leafs winning 4 out of 5, but I just wanted to do a quick post about Damien Cox 'cause he actually made me very happy today. It began with this statement from his blog, the Spin:

Now, with Martin Gerber having acted like a complete idiot over a goal that, in my opinion, was correctly counted as legal, Pogge gets another shot.

My emphasis in bold. It seemed like a ridiculous thing to say, so I sent him this response, which they actually posted:

Sorry Damien, but only an idiot would think pithforking a goalie in the junk and pushing him into the net while the puck is underneath him is "correctly counted as legal". You're a fraud that actually knows nothing about hockey and when you make statements like that you give yourself away.

Too bad I spelt "pithforking" like an idiot. Three comments later, Damien himself is jumping into his own comments just to pad the total like I do:

First, puck was loose, not covered. Player bangs it over line. Good goal.

Argument is irrelevant, not logical. Journalist going out lunch. Comment strange. But wait, don't let that choppy, disillusionment stop you from reading the best part:

Rest is just usual whining from Leaf fans who still want to talk about Kerry Fraser's non-call on Gretzky high stick in '93 playoffs.

Wow. How awesome is that? Truly, I'm blown away that he used that reference. So, in good humour, I responded to his suggestion that Gerber was an idiot with this:

It isn't November anymore. These games don't matter. What does matter is having players who show a little passion and spirit. Too often last year the Leafs would just accept it when they were getting screwed. Gerber's reaction was entirely appropriate.

Damien responds immediately in the very next comment:

Damien here. . .too funny. . .guys who define shooting a puck at a referee as showing "passion and spirit". Well, why not go hit the ref with a nice two-hander? That would be really spirited!

That's so great. He puts quotes around my words but he calls me "guys" because I have a ridiculous blogger name. The bit about two-handing a ref being really spirited is hysterical. That won't ever stop being funny to me. Sure, Damien. Take his head offGo Leafs Go!

Also included in the comments is this gem from Bitter Leaf Fan:

Three separate issues here Damien.

First, if video evidence exists of a loose puck, I'd love to see it. It certainly wasn't available or broadcast during the game. Can you let me know where you saw the so-called loose puck? Second, "idiot" is a pretty loaded word. Players do a lot of stupid things in the heat of the moment and I'll take Gerber's passion any day. Third, what's with the constant attacks on Leaf fans? Folks disagree with your assessment of a goal and you drop 1993, Gretzky and Fraser on them? I'm surprised you didn't shoehorn a "1967" or "42 years" into your response. Such a simple minded response from you is really unbecoming, but as you said, "some things never change"

I wish I'd written that.

I guess I should say that I don't actually think that Damien Cox is terrible. That's why there's a link to his blog down in the Web of Distraction list. He's better then Berger, Simmons, Strachan, Feschuk, and DiManno, but so are you probably, it really isn't saying much. Still, I used to read him a lot, once, long ago, and if it weren't for Damien I never would have found CoxBloc, and then Pension Plan Puppets and Down Goes Brown, He Score He Shoot!, Die Hard Blue And White, Loser Domi, Bitter Leaf Fan, Sports And The City, and all of the other wonderful writers that I now get my daily, even hourly, Leafs' news and opinion from.

So thanks, Damien, for all your work, and for taking the time to speak with Leaf fans today. It was a lot of fun for me and I'm glad I was able to make you laugh when I said that thing about "passion and spirit". It wasn't meant to be a definition, just an example, but whatever.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cujo's Glory, Gerber's Guts

What a game.

One thing that occurs to me is that if the Vesa had been in net, none of the drama that we saw at the end of the game would have happened. I don't think that Toskala would ever have reacted the way Martin Gerber did after the second Washington goal. I liked that Gerber showed some emotion and frustration. That's the way it supposed to be. You don't have to go crazy like Eddie. Cujo would get mad. Felix would get mad. I want a goaltender that gets pissed off when the Leafs are getting screwed.

This game, and specifically the dirty goal at the end of the 3rd, reminded me of a game from last year around this time when the Leafs thought they were still in a playoff race. The Leafs lost to the Devils, 2-1, March the 8th, on a suspiciously familiar play. Check out the video of the game here and fast forward to (3:45) and you'll see Zach Parise pitchfork Toskala into the net for the game winning goal with less then a minute to go.
Brutal. Total garbage. And yet, the Leafs, and the Vesa, sat there and took it. "This one hurts for sure", said Sundin with a sigh. A sigh! I got so sick of that heavy sigh. I got so bored of Paul Maurice's scrunched up puzzled concern. Doesn't he know what's going on? The Leafs are getting screwed!

Here's Gereber last night. The Capitals' tying goal is disturbingly similar to Parise's, but Gerber's reaction is a refreshing blast of emotion not seen by a Leaf netminder since well before Red-light Raycrap came to town.
Gerber was furious and he had every right to be. I'm not sure he expressed himself in the right way, but he had the right feeling and he directed it at the right person. Just wanted to point that out and salute Gerber's 34 (shoulda' been 35) save effort. Cujo became the star of the night and received a tremendous ovation for his thrilling performance, but it was Gerber whose raw emotion set the stage for the incredible drama that unfolded in the final act.
Way to go, Cujo. 9 saves, 8 of them in overtime, and the game's first star. What a fantastic finish. 

As a final thought, I hope the Leafs start pitchforking opposing goalies into their nets more often since that's obviously an acceptable strategy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Poni Comes Of Age

Way to go, Alexei. You're doing it.

Eat it, Montreal.
I was really concerned at the Trade Deadline about losing Dominic Moore because I thought it might negatively effect Jason Blake's production. As for trading Antropov, it wasn't concern, I simply accepted that Ponikarovsky's numbers would go down and that he would struggle on his own. Whenever the two were separated, I always assumed it was because Poni wasn't playing well and saw it as a demotion from the top line. What I never imagined happening after the Antropov trade, was Ponikarovsky suddenly emerging from the shadows as the team's best forward.

Since March the 4th, Poni is on a tear. In the last 9 games he has 4 goals, 10 assists for 14 points, has had 3 multiple point games, and has only been held without a point twice. Oddly, both those games were against Tampa Bay. In last night's game against Montreal he was absolutely outstanding. Playing on a line with Grabovski and Kulemin, Poni dominated the game with 2 goals and 2 assists, earning the first star.

To put in perspective what Poni has done since the loss of Antropov and Moore, we'll compare his stats with those of Stajan, Stampniak, and Blake, since the Trade Deadline.

Ponikarovsky: 4G 10A 14P +2 23 Shots

Averaging about 2.5 shots per game and 1.5 points per game.
Stajan: 0G 5A 5P +2 12 Shots

Stajan is nowhere near producing at the level he was before the tragic soccer-ball-in-the-eye-fiasco. Just five points since Antropov and Moore were traded, he's been held pointless 5 times in that span, and without a shot twice. Stajan is hardly stepping it up. In fact, he's now in a deep goal scoring slump and hasn't put the puck in the back of the net for 14 games, going back exactly a month to February 21st when he scored a short-handed goal in the Mats Sundin/Vancouver game.
Stempniak: 3G 3A 6P -3 25 Shots

Held pointless 3 times, but never held without a shot, he's averaged over 2.5 shots per game in his last 9. His numbers are still less then thrilling, though, especially the minus 3.
Blake: 3G 3A 6P Even 37 Shots

Blake's output has suffered a bit with the loss of Moore. Held pointless 4 times in the last 9 games, including the first 3 games immediately after the Trade Deadline, Blake's offensive numbers look similar to Stempniak's. He does have one multiple point game in there though, while Stempniak does not, and he continues to be a shot-firing machine, with never less then at least 2 shots, averaging over 4 per game in this stretch. All those shots, and the fact that his plus/minus is at Even, indicate that Blake is still playing fairly well and continually pressuring the other team's defence. Without Moore's occasionally brilliant instincts however, success just isn't coming as often.

This post isn't meant to slam any of those other players (although Stampniak and Stajan could both sure use a kick in the butt), but simply to point out how well Poni has adapted and grown in the absence of Antropov and Moore. The word blossom comes to mind. As a final comparison, let's look at the stats of the two forwards that were traded and see how well they've done in their new enviornments:

Antropov has played well in New York with 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in 8 games, on 19 shots and an even plus/minus. Not bad at all, but imagine what we'd be saying if he had 14 points and two 4-point games already under his belt in the Big Apple?

Moore, meanwhile, has made less of a splash in Buffalo, picking up a goal and 2 assists for just 3 points in his first 8 games with the Sabres. He has 14 shots on goal, and is a plus 2.

Hopefully this is just the start for our Poni-boy on his journey to becoming a Poni-man. If he can finish the season the way he's playing right now, he should be able to come into camp next season with an abundance of confidence and maturity, ready to assume an important leadership position on the team. For years, Ponikarovksy played second-fiddle to Antropov's lead, the tall, lanky Kazakh's long, lanky shadow shielding Alexei from the spotlight, but also from stardom. Finally, the time has come for Poni to emerge and show us what he can do on his own. Indeed, it might be the best thing that could have happened to him.
Keep 'er goin', Poni. You're making us very happy to have two 2nd round draft picks.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Long Dreary Post About Playoff Dreams And Statistical Improbability With A Little Bit Of Optimism At The End

Some statistics to throw out there. Just a reality check, I guess - 'see where we're at. It doesn't seem like the Leafs have been playing that great lately, but it does feel like they're playing better. They have won 2 in a row, and 3 out of 4, and are now 4-3-1 for the month so far. Going back as far as Feb. 19th, exactly a month ago, the Leafs are 8-3-3 in their last 14. That's a winning percentage of .678 over four weeks. Most frustrating, their only regulation losses over that stretch are against Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Edmonton - teams they should be able beat. If they continue the pace they're on over their remaining 11 games they might pick up another 15 points and finish with 86 points. 90 points is considered the minimum for reaching the playoffs.

Meanwhile, last night, the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a victory, beating up the emotionally drained New Jersey Devils the night after Brodeur's record-setting win. For Carolina, it's a huge win that ties them with Montreal for 7th in the East with 81 points, 3 ahead of the Florida Panthers - the Leafs' opponent for tonight's game. With 2 games in hand however, and 12 more to go on the schedule, the Panthers are still very much in the battle for the last playoff spot.

For the Leafs, the playoff drive, which never really began - in November when it could have mattered - is already done. Newsflash: The Leafs are not going to make the playoffs. You could have said that in December, or even September, and you probably did several times very directly, but a few of us die-hards held out hope and dared to dream of revisiting the post-season. Boundless optimism in the face mediocrity only goes so far, however. "Anything is possible" doesn't sound so good when it's followed up with "though statistically, it's highly improbable".

The Playoff(s!!!1) Dream is over. All that is left is to make it a formality. Toronto's tragic number now sits at 12. That is to say: any combination of points earned by the 8th place team, currently Carolina, and points squandered by the Leafs equalling 12 will mean that the Leafs have been officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. To put it simply; 3 Carolina wins (6 points) and 3 Toronto losses (6 points missed) will eliminate the Leafs. That's all. If Carolina wins just 3 of their remaining 10 and Toronto loses only 3 of their remaining 11, both teams will have 87 points and Carolina would advance on most wins. It's reasonable to assume that the Hurricanes are easily going to win at least 3, and just as reasonable to assume the Leafs will lose at least 3, if not 6 or 7. Without a mighty, mighty miracle, it's simply a matter of time.

There are still reasons for optimism however, as I eluded to in my title. Thus, I will present them to you, with bold headings, in a list going down, with numbers going up.

1. OLAS, Grabbo, and Super-Kule. The Leafs have 3 rookies in Schenn, Grabovski, and Kulemin, that have not only survived an NHL season, they've also shown that they can flourish and develop. It'll be interesting to see how each of them matures in their sophomore season, but so far they've all managed to take a big step forwards without hardly any sliding back. Congratulations to all of them for earning their ice-time and deserving the sweater.

2. Kaberle, Kubina, Schenn, White, Finger, Van Ryn, Frogren. I really like this 7-pack of defencemen. I'm happy having every single one of these guys on my team, and as long as this unit can stay healthy (yes, Van Ryn, we're all lookin' at you) for a consistent stretch, I think they're as solid as any group of defenceman from top to bottom. I'm not completely sold on Finger, and Ian White may be the weakest link in the chain here, but I'm hesitant to underestimate either of them anymore. Soft coverage or making bonehead mistakes can be overlooked when you play really, really well most of the time. For this year it's a write-off, but for next year, I'm excited to see what this group can do if they play together over an entire season.

3. The Draft and Brian Burke. I just know he's gonna do something good here. It doesn't matter where we finish in the standings, 'cause Burke'll do whatever it takes to get us the player(s) that he wants. What I'm really hoping for, is that the Leafs somehow acquire a 2nd pick in the top 10, allowing them to draft the younger Schenn, Brayden, and another prospect as well. That is the plan, at least, my plan. Make it happen, Burke old boy. We're counting on you.

And since we're speaking directly, Brian, and as long as you're taking requests; please bring back Belak, okay? That one's vital.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Enter The Gerber

Let's just get one thing straight. I hated Martin Gerber. The idea of Martin Gerber becoming a Leaf made my skin crawl. If I had to describe my feelings for Gerber in one word, it would be "puke". Just wanted to get that out of the way. Now we can move on.

I love a compelling story-line, and I love cheering for the underdog. Let's move on some more.

There's something very interesting happening here. If what they say is true, and Toskala's surgery was inevitable and necessary, then the acquisition of Martin Gerber was a tremendous move. This has the potential to work out for the Leafs in a really positive, unexpected way. Gerber, at one time a very promising goaltender, needed to be thrown a life-line to rescue his career, and luckily the Leafs have done that and given him a chance. It's Kyle Wellwood in reverse, without the pictures by the pool or the obesity, and hopefully it'll lead to some good karma for the team.
Martin Gerber joined the Anahiem Mighty Ducks in 2002, as the back-up goaltender to J.S. Giguere, appearing in 22 games. He then sat on the bench in the playoffs for all but 20 minutes, as Giguere led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final, winning 15 games and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

The following season, Gerber played 32 games with decent numbers (2.26 GA, .918 SV%), while Giguere faltered, and the Ducks missed the playoffs by 15 points. After the lockout, Gerber found a job with Carolina as the starting goaltender, appearing in 60 games. In the playoffs however, after splitting the first 2 games in the opening round, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette, replaced Gerber with Cam Ward, who then led the Hurricanes all the way to the Finals, defeating the Edmonton Oilers to win the Cup. Ward, most improbably, was named MVP and received the Conn Smythe.

The following summer, the Ottawa Senators signed Gerber as a free-agent, while Chara and Havlat departed to Boston and Chicago. That year, Gerber underwhelmed in Ottawa, while even more improbably, Ray Emery emerged as a dressing room leader and a fan favorite. This time Gerber lost the starting job before the playoffs even began, and while Emery was no candidate for the Conn Smythe, he was solid enough to get the Senators through three playoff rounds.

So, for the third time in four seasons, with 3 different teams, Martin Gerber sat on the bench and watched the Stanley Cup Finals as a back-up goaltender, thinking to himself who knows what.

After a good start last year, things began to unravel in Ottawa, with Emery at the centre. Gerber won the starting job for the playoffs, yet failed to win a single game, as the Senators were swept in the opening round by the Penguins. By mid-season the following year, Emery is in Moscow, Gerber is in Binghamton, and the Senators are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

If ever there was a goalie with something to prove; it's Martin Gerber. A quick look at his stats (career: 105-73-21, 2.61 GA, .911 SV%) shows a very capable NHL goaltender. I'm guessing that Gerber, much like Emery, or come to think of it, everyone who's ever been there, got a raw deal in Ottawa. Murray is a horrible GM who, to the joy of Leafs fans, has ruined a strong contender, while trying to lay blame at everyone else's doorstep. If it isn't the goalie it must be the other goalie, and if it isn't him, it must be the coach. After the nightmare he's been through, Gerber's going to be playing for more then just pride. He's also going to be playing for his life right now, because his career hangs in the balance, and he knows it.

"I appreciate being in this situation, and getting another shot, that's all I can ask for," said Gerber. "The last 24 hours have been surprising and emotional. I went through waivers once, and thought that was it for me over here."

Well, in his first game as a Maple Leaf, Gerber was excellent. As Wilson said. "he was a little lucky", but he was also "unbelievable" at times. I thought his positioning was solid even when he couldn't see the puck, his rebound control was good, and he made 2 or 3 eye-popping stops with the help of his defenders. 37 saves for a 2-1 victory, and a very impressive return to the NHL.

"I was a bit nervous, and a little emotional to come back."

There's that word again. Emo-tional? I don't get it.

Emo-Schenn. Ooh. I felt something that time... something good... I want more.

What a suddenly stark contrast from the easy-going Vesa, and his Zen-like approach to winning and losing and season-ending surgery. Cool under pressure is one thing, but Toskala's mellow groove is nearly sedating.

The other reason I like this move is because it might really drive Sens fans nuts to see Gerber succeed after letting him go for nothing, and in fact, actually paying half his salary to play for their most hated rivals. The only thing that'd make them crazier would be if the Leafs picked up Emery over the summer, but I guess that isn't going to happen now. Too bad. I really would have liked that.
Good luck, Gerber. For the next six weeks, with every 37 save performance, I'll hate you a little less. Already my skin has stopped crawling, so that's a positive sign.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bio-Engineering The Vesa2010

We all know how fans feel about athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs, but is it wrong for a professional athlete to opt for performance-enhancing surgery? I can't do the splits, and no amount of stretching is going to let me do the splits comfortably and easily anytime soon. On the other hand, if I was fabulously wealthy, say, like, 4-million-dollars-a-year wealthy, then I could probably just find a surgeon who could reconstruct my hips and pelvic muscles enough to make my groin feel elastic-fantastic. While I'm at it, I might as well replace the rotator cuff in my right shoulder using the most sophisticated technology available to re-enforce my catching arm so I can make super-bionic glove saves without feeling a thing. Maybe my focus and vision would be better if I had just ONE BIG EYE? Is this legal in sports now? Can athletes who are feeling fine, even great - all year long, essentially "buy" better "sports equipment" from doctors to try to improve their game?

"I got the same thing done on my other hip - during the lockout year - four or five years ago. So that hip has been great after that, which is why I'm excited to go get the surgery," Toskala said. "It's been almost better than before. It's going to be good next year."

Better then before what? You mean, before when it wasn't hurt and everything was fine? Is that allowed?

"I've been feeling good but, sometimes, it's not just easy," he said.

It's discouraging when stuff isn't easy, eh? That's the reason Michael Jordan started - and stopped - playing baseball. I wonder if this is what's going on with Rick Dipietro. Maybe he's just not a very good goaltender, but since the Islanders essentially own him for 15 years they feel they can send him back to surgeon after surgeon in the hopes of creating a super-cyborg-goaltender of the future? Well, at any rate, I'm sure looking forward to next season when the Vesa's groin and hips are literally 110% better and he finds playing every game at an elite level "easy". That's gonna be awesome.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

BoOBbB 4

Yes, the tradition continues over here as we present another edition of the Battle of Ontario Blow by Blow. This is the 4th contest between these two teams this season; the Leafs have won the first and third meetings in regulation and the Sens won the second game by a shoot-out.

The game begins with a video montage honouring Luke Richardson. I don't really understand why. I guess they've already honoured Brad Marsh several times by now. Tonight's game is in Ottawa and it seems like a good crowd early on, meaning - lots of noise from Leaf fans is going to keep grumpy Sens fans from getting their usual peaceful sedation.

Joseph starts in goal for the Maple Leafs, which is terrific since my post earlier today was specifically and entirely about Toskala. The Vesa remains as elusive and unpredictable as ever.

First Period

19:30 Van Ryn back in the line up, on the ice in the first minute.

19:00 Antro has the first chance and misses wide.

17:30 Mayers with a good hit behind the net. First physical contact of the game.

17:00-16:30 Sens with pressure. Cujo makes 2 saves.

15:00 Stajan, Poni, and Antro battle for the puck as it goes through the crease, but don't score.

14:10 Kaberle on the ice. First time I've noticed him. Welcome back, Tomas.

13:21 GOAL!! Mayers scores on a 2-on-1 with May. Jamal takes a nice neutral zone feed from Mitchell, and shoots a knuckleball gloveside that fools Elliott. Kaberle with the other assist.

8:40 Mitchell with a close chance off the outside of the post. The last 4 minutes, there's been a few shots but no real good chances and not a single good body check that I've seen.

7:50 Stapleton with a nifty tip on a Jason Blake shot, save Elliott.

7:20 Antro starts a good chance by curling into the slot for a shot on goal. Stajan bangs away at the rebound, and then Van Ryn puts it over the empty net from just outside the crease.

5:00 A long, long, long shift for Jason Blake ends when he fires the puck from a mile out and hits Elliott in the stomach who hangs on for a whistle. After a commercial break, Blake is back on the ice again.

4:32 GOAL!! Moore wins a battle for the puck behind the net and gets the puck to Blake. His shot is stopped, but Stapleton and Spezza both poke at the puck and it goes in. Stapleton gets credit for the goal, from Blake and Moore.

1:40 Spezza tries to jam it in from behind the net, then Heatley misses wide. All the play has been on the outside. Sens don't seem willing to battle through the middle to the net.

0:30 Stajan sets up Kubina for a nice shot, but the rebound leads to a rush for the Sens the other way. Nothing comes of that, and soon the period ends.

2-0 Leafs after 1. Not much pressure from the Senators. Their defence can't make a pass to save their lives so the forwards try to carry every rush up the ice and never drop it back. So far, not a very interesting game, despite the 2 goals for the Leafs.

Second Period

19:32 Goal. Sens score. Spezza behind the net, feeds Shannon. It's 2-1. Heatley gets a phantom assist.

18:30 Joseph's eyes tell me he means business tonight.

18:06 Penalty. The first call of the game goes against Grabovski in the Leafs' zone for holding.

17:10 Alfie in the slot, stopped by Cujo. Huge save on the penalty kill.

16:06 Penalty ends. Alfie's chance was the only good one.

15:27 Goal. It's 2-2. Sens again. Comrie gets the puck to the net and Ruutu bangs it in. Weak defensive coverage by Kaberle. I never even saw Donovan on the ice tonight, but he gets an assist on this goal somehow, along with Comrie.

14:00 Sens carry the play. Leafs seem surprisingly disinterested.

13:50 One-on-one, Fisher vs. Schenn, and Schenn dominates.

12:10 Good save Joseph. Sens still carrying the play.

10:30 Nice give-and-go by Antro and Poni leads to a good chance and then a HUGE goalmouth scramble, but no luck.

10:15 Volchenkov hits Mayers.

9:45 Mitchell almost has a chance in the slot but that dirty weasel Spezza hooks him. Leafs go to their first powerplay of the game.

8:30 Kubina wrist shot stopped.

7:45 Penalty ends without much pressure.

6:10 Van Ryn and Frogren cough up the puck in the Leafs' zone and the Sens get sustained pressure.

5:10 Blake and Moore try to settle things down by retreating in the neutral zone, but Ottawa is much more aggressive this period and keeps forechecking.

4:33 Moore draws Heatley into coincidental minors. Slashing and roughing. Might have been the Leafs best shift of the period, but that really isn't saying much. 4-on-4 for two minutes.

3:20 Grabbo shot nearly gets away from Elliott.

2:50 Blake breakaway! Stoned!

2:20 Alfie carries the puck for really the first time in the game and the fans finally get a chance to boo.

1:50 Stajan and Poni combine for a chance, and Poni's shot is stopped. Leafs suddenly seem much more enthusiastic.

1:40 Penalty. Sens get called for Too Many Men, an entirely ironic situation.

0:50 Leafs powerplay only has Kaberle on the point and 4 forwards? Stempniak is out there, but he's down low, in front of the net.

0:10 Antro makes a nice rush and passes to Stempniak for a shot, right on, no rebound.

The 2nd period comes to a close. The Leafs seemingly in control after 20 minutes, have let the Senators back in this game by not matching their intensity. No desire for physical play from either team. So far Joseph has been as good as he needs to be. He shouldn't have to stand on his head to beat the Senators.

Third Period

18:55 Stajan with some nice work along the boards leads to a shot for Luke Schenn.

17:30 Solid "Go! Leafs! Go!" chant. Sloppy play continues.

15:40 A chance for the Leafs, but Poni can't bang in the rebound.

15:34 Goal. A 2-on-1 immediately after the other way, and Alfie fires the puck past Joseph. 3-2, Sens. Fisher with the assist.

15:00 Smith gives Kulemin a stick in the face, no call.

13:40 Stajan is stopped, point blank, by Elliott.

13:30 Sens blow a 3-on-1 and don't really get a quality chance before the net is knocked off.

12:30 Senators chance just misses. Comrie with a tricky shot, glances off Cujo's shoulder.

11:50 Spezza, sharp angle. stopped.

11:00 Poni with a chance in front, has a bouncing puck bounce off him and on top of the net.

10:00 Joseph makes a big save on a point blank shot from Winchester.

8:30 Fisher checks Kaberle and knocks him off the puck, but Kabby battles back, retrieves the puck from Fisher, and clears the zone.

7:30 Antro goes to the bench looking hurt. Took a 2-hander off the back of the shoulder.

7:00 Mitchell has a good chance on a 2-on-1 with Grabbo, decides to take the shot, and misses wide.

6:30 Awww Yeah. Spezza hooks Schenn. Leaf powerplay.

6:05 Kabby to Blake cross-ice pass doesn't quite connect. Could've been a good scoring opportunity.

5:30 Kabby with a dangerous shot down low. Save made, Elliott.

5:20 Antro back on the ice.

5:12 GOAL!! Kubina! Shot from the point ties the game on the powerplay. Way to go, Spezza! Antro with the assist on a nice cross-ice pass.

5:00 5 minutes to go, game tied 3-3. This is what Saturday nights are all about.

3:50 Crowd is super-loud. Moore, Blake, Stapleton on the ice.

3:10 Van Ryn takes a puck off the ankle and goes to the bench in pain.

2:00 Nice play by White at the offensive blue-line and the Leafs get a chance and hold the pressure.

0:40 Sens try to pressure. but can't get near the net.Volchenkov's shot is blocked by Schenn.

0:00 The 3rd period ends. Shots are 37-32 for the Leafs, who are headed to their sixth straight overtime. 


5:00 4-on-4 Stajan and Antropov start for Toronto.

4:27 GOAL!! A broken play on a 3-on-2 one way and two Senators fall, giving the Leafs a 3-on-2 the other way. White leads the rush with Stajan going to the net and makes a nice pass to Kubina in the slot who blasts it through the Sens goaltender. Leafs win, 4-3 in OT, Kubina with the tying and winning goal. Cujo gets the win, his 451st of his career, and 2nd of the year.

You can find a scoring summary here.

The third star, Ian White

The second star, Curtis Joseph

The first star, Pavel Kubina!

The Leafs have now taken 7 out of a possible 8 points in 4 meetings with the Senators. The next round in the Battle of Ontario is only 9 days away, but with the trade deadline looming, we might be looking at 2 very different teams by the time March 9th rolls around. A big win tonight for the Blue and White pushes the Leaf winning streak up to 4 games, giving them a record of 6-3-4 for the month of February. They have just one regulation loss in their last 8 games. 

Thanks for coming out everybody. See ya next time at the BoOBbB!