Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome Back

One hundred and ninety-eight days. That's how long it's been since Leaf fans were able to celebrate a regular season win. That's how long it's been since we've known what 2 points in the standings felt like. God, it's good to be back in the win column. Oh, how we've missed you, Defiant Maple Leaf. Welcome back, my friend.

And a very special welcome back to the Monster, who provided the Leafs first true act of defiance on the night when he denied the Ducks an early strike with this spectacular save:
Sensational. Now that is defiant. What a difference a Monster makes.

Later, Anaheim's dubious opening goal of the 1st period would set the stage for the Leafs second act of defiance. Just 7 seconds after the goal - a bench minor for abuse of officials at 10:35, assessed during a TV timeout, presumably for over-zealous chirping about the missed goaltender-interference call on Marchant. Could have been quite costly if the Ducks had scored to go up 2-0, but the Leafs continued their defiance with a gutsy and determined penalty kill.

In fact, before the penalty-time had even expired, the Leafs third significant act of defiance occurred. A minute and a half into the Ducks' powerplay, Beauchemin drew a slash from Bobby Ryan, and then, after standing his ground against his former teammate, drew the attention of Corey Perry. Within seconds, the game's hat-trick hero Hagman, along with Stajan, became involved as gloves and sticks fell to the ice. When it was all sorted out, Hagman had the lone Leaf penalty for roughing, while Ryan's initial slashing minor was accompanied by a double-roughing minor to Perry for separate mix-ups with Beauchemin and then Hagman.

Three minutes, forty-two seconds and 2 quick powerplay goals later, the Leafs were in the lead.

In the 2nd period, there was a similar moment, with similar execution. With the Leafs already on the powerplay, Stempniak takes a terrific run at Anahiem's crease-crashng-culprit, Marchant, absolutely ninja-popping him into the boards. As Niedemayer reacts and comes in to engage Stempniak after the hit, our favourite Weeble-Wobbler, Rowdy Grabbo intercepts and jumps on the old warrior's back. Grabovski, who'd scored the Leafs first goal, loses his helmet in the scrum, yet Niedemayer is the one assessed the only penalty for roughing and the Leafs go to their 2nd 5-on-3 advantage. Once again, Hagman makes them pay.

A great save. A bench penalty. An aggressive penalty kill. A dangerous powerplay. Team courage and toughness.

Defiance. Truculence. Victory.

And 2 points.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Writing's On The Wall

"When you believe in things that you don't understand,
then you suffer

I believe in the Leafs. I don't understand why, especially when they're this bad. And then, yes, I suffer, especially when they're this bad. But it doesn't stop me from believing that my believing and suffering will somehow help. Of course, it doesn't actually help, but I still act like it does. I guess you could say I'm a little bit - superstitious.

Can you make out this image? It's kinda grainy, dark, and fuzzy, and it sorta reminds me of photos of the Loch Ness Monster, or Bigfoot, or flying saucers. It's kinda fitting that it should be such poor quality because it represents the (sketchy at) best evidence that I've been able to acquire that proves that the Leafs are indeed CURSED.
Is this any better? Not really, now it's just a bigger blur. This image was taken from a still-frame of an obscure video on youtube, laser printed onto hard-copy white paper, digitally photographed using sub-standard Fido technology, then e-mailed across cyberspace, downloaded to a secure hard-drive and then uploaded to this blog page. You might question the wisdom of these methods, but please consider that many Bothans died to bring us this information, so a little respect, okay. We're dealing with the Paranormal here.

This will give you the best look of all at what I'm talkin' about. Pause the video at the 24 second mark and then again at the 25 second mark. Go ahead, I'll wait... What you're looking at is the NY Rangers third goal on Saturday, putting them ahead 3-0, effectively taking the Leafs out of the game. This is the goal that bothers me more then any other this season because for the life of me, I cannot figure out how this one goes in the net.

The two Leaf players in front of the Rangers' shooter are Beauchemin and Stempniak. They're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing - lining up to block the shot. Their positioning is excellent. In fact, from my point of view, it's perfect. They've played it beautifully. And then... THE PUCK GOES THROUGH THE GOALTENDER'S LEGS!

I don't see how that's possible. I don't see a path along the ice to the net that would allow the puck to reach MacDonald without hitting Beachemin or Stempniak. There just isn't one. I've watched the video again and again - and again, and again. I even watched the referee to make sure he didn't throw a decoy puck into the back of the net. I just don't understand how it went in. And yet...

The goal was scored by Michael Del Zotto, an Ontario-born teenaged-rookie, playing his first game in Toronto, in front of 70 family members and friends. That's how it happened - that's EXACTLY how it happened!! There's your explanation. It was, as it always is, destiny.

Watch the video again - the puck actually loses material substance and form, right before your eyes, and DISAPPEARS, only to REAPPEAR on the other side of Beauchemin and Stempniak, directly below MacDonald's open legs and then into the back of the net. It didn't go through their sticks and skates - it wasn't even there! Spooky shit. Some goalies would like to have that one back, but you can't control fate and you can't fault a goaltender when there's nothing any mortal could possibly do. It works the same way for returning players in their first trip back to the ACC - did you see Tucker's goal against the Leafs last Tuesday? After he scores, he tilts his head back and looks up at the ACC ceiling with reverent appreciation. Tucker knows the score...

This is pretty serious, folks. I don't want to downplay this at all. The Leafs have an infinite amount of bad luck. It truly is a Curse. It's magical - Black Magic of the evilest kind - and it's more powerful then the... what? Watch another video? Seems highly unusual, but I suppose...

What the heck was that? Was that Ian White saving a goal? But the shooter was Colorado's Matt Duchene, another Ontario-born rookie playing his first game in Toronto, and that would have been his first NHL goal! And Ian White stopped it...!

Oh. My. God.

It's the 'stache! That freakin' mustache has the power to defy destiny! White didn't even have a grip on an NHL career until that 'stache came along. What wonders! It's a miracle. A MIRACLE, I tell you. Hey, wait a minute - what happens immediately after the Del Zotto goal? Oh... my... Less then 30 seconds later, Ian White scores a goal, the only Leaf goal of the game. Well, I don't need any further proof. I know the answer. I believe in the Mustachulence!

Good Golly! That hockey puck threw itself at Ian White's face after he scored that goal! Behold, the power of The Curse, and yet, behold, the power of the 'stache is greater! White went down but he got back up. The Curse went for a knock-out blow against its greatest challenger but the 'stache wouldn't stay down.

Again, I don't want to understate the importance of these cosmic events. This is an epic battle being waged to regain spiritual control of Leaf Nation's karma and fortune. I suggest that EVERYONE should start growing a mustache today - even the women and children. If you can't grow at least a half-decent mustache by Saturday night, then wear a fake one. We need everybody on the same page and pulling together in the same direction. Together, we can break this awful Curse - with mustaches!

Defeat The Curse.Grow Your 'Stache.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How To Get To Tomorrow Before Today Becomes Yesterday

Is it already too late to save the season?

JoeyMac had something interesting to say last night:

"We had a lot of young guys last year just coming into the league, trying to prove themselves every single night," MacDonald said before the game. "So they were working hard. Here, I think we're working, but we're working at times, and not a full 60 minutes."

If I'm reading this right, MacDonald is suggesting that last year's Islanders worked harder then this year's version of the Leafs. The difference, according to the third-string journeyman goaltender, is youth. The young guys. Players that want to "prove themselves, every single night."

One wonders how much Jason Blake feels he has left to prove to anyone. He proved it all 3 years ago when he scored 40 goals. He proved it again last year when he bounced back and had a terrific season. He's at the end of an 11-year career. He knows what he's done and what he can do, 'cause he did it. Four million dollars, please. What's there left to prove?

Dominic Moore was an excellent pick-up who spent the entire season last year trying to prove his worth. He didn't get the big paycheque that he was looking for but he did try to earn it. He set his sights high, above the expectations of others, and he worked hard to prove them wrong. Moore possessed a defiant, competitive desire to succeed that made him, Jason Blake, and the whole Leafs' team, better.

But Blake's not the only Forward whose energy and competitive fire is missing its spark. Mayers, Mitchell, Stajan, and Hagman all seem less interested in (or incapable of) establishing their roles on the team, nevermind dominance on the ice.

(I'm hesitant to include Stempniak in this group. I think he does have something to prove and is playing that way. Success is yet to come, but the effort is there. It could be that he's just not that good, but he is trying to show that he belongs.)

Darcy Tucker, bless his bat-shit crazy soul, is off to a great start this seaon and looks re-energized and ready to compete again. Tucker helped the Avalanche defeat the Leafs last night with a goal and an assist, moving his team to the top of the Western Conference standings. In 6 games, Tucker has 5 points (3G, 2A), 11 penalty minutes, and 12 shots on goal. So why does Tucker look younger, and not older, then he did the last 2 seasons?

"I’ve got two guys (Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, both 18) who sit beside me on the road all the time and in the dressing room. They have a lot of questions and things I have to answer. That’s helped me out. They play with some good spunk and it’s actually elevated my game a little bit.”

Stalberg has already shown us that he belongs on the team. In fact, he sometimes looks like the Leafs' best player. Now he wants to see how he measures up to the rest of the NHL. You can feel it every time he touches the puck, he's trying to make something happen, testing himself against his opponents, and trying to be better then they are.

Bozak also looks like he's ready to show us what he can do. Hanson and Tlusty, maybe even Gunnarson, and how about one last shot for Frogren? We need to get as many of these fresh faces into the line-up as possible. We need to replace the fear of growing old with optimism and dreams.

The future is now. Every game and every shift should be a demonstration of who wants to be on the ice for the next game, the next shift.

Thanks to MacDonald for his honest appraisal, and best of luck to a rejuvenated Darcy Tucker.

*UPDATE * 10/16 11:00am

Darcy Tucker continues to praise the injection of youth into the lineup. From the Gazette:

Our young guys not only bring a really good skill level, but an energy about them. We have to pull them off the ice half the time. It’s infectious.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

What The Heck Is Wrong With Francois Beauchemin?

Maybe not everyone has noticed, but there's a new poll down below. I'm trying to find out who Leaf fans think should be the next Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. So far, there's been only 14 votes, which tells me that there's a certain amount of apathy out there towards this decision, and maybe I should've had "no Captain" as an option. But Wilson seems poised to make a decision and since I've already made mine, I thought I would consult the fan base - which, as far as I can tell, consists of me, you, eyebleaf, and maybe a dozen other people.

So far, one thing I've learned from this poll is that no one seems to like Francois Beauchemin. At least, no one has voted for him to be the Captain yet. Right now it's a dead-heat with all 14 votes split evenly between Kaberle, Komisarek, and Schenn. So, what do we do if there's a tie? Is there overtime? I honestly don't know. I thought OLAS might be the darkhorse on the outside since he isn't one of the 3 players Wilson chose to wear the "A". Maybe he should have been. Beauchemin seems to have already dropped out of the race.

"Beauchemin is the new Larry Murphy."
-Karina, on PensionPlanPuppets

I really thought we decided it was Toskala. Okay, maybe this "Larry Murphy" is in the context of an over-paid, useless defenceman, but really the analogy that works best with that meaning would be who's your Bryan McCabe now? Larry Murphy was ridiculed, yes, but he was also booed mercilessly as a central target for fan frustration when the team was awful and poorly managed. I'm not sure Beauchemin has earned that level of collective scorn yet. Again, I think it's Toskala who's assumed the weight of the team's fortunes on his shoulders, representing both our over-optimism and impatience for success, and when the revolution turns ugly he'll likely be the first one up against the wall.

So why no support for Francois? Being a team-low in plus/minus doesn't sell too many Beauchemin jerseys I guess. On the other hand, he and Kaberle are far-and-away the team's leaders in ice-time. Beauchemin's even-strength ice-time is equal to Komisarek's, but he's so far getting more time on the powerplay. He's third on the team in shots on goal, leading all defenceman in that category, and though he hasn't found the back of the net yet, he did come close to tying the game Tuesday against Ottawa when he rattled one off the posts in the 3rd. He also picked up an assist in that 3rd period, his second of the year. While the chemistry with Schenn isn't there just yet, the effort is.

Maybe Leaf fans were expecting more form Beauchemin. I think a lot of heavy expectations have been placed on this team from fans starved for success. From Toskala, to Beauchemin, to Schenn, to Grabovski - there's not a lot of room for failure and disappointment. I've already heard grumblings about Grabovski's play in the first 3 games, yet Grabbo is tied for the team lead in plus/minus and points. I'm sure that if he, along with Stajan, Poni, and Kaberle, kept up the point-a-game pace they're on out of the gate, and all 4 of them finished with 82-point seasons, we'd be pretty happy overall with their efforts. But expectations are for wins, and the Leafs don't have any, and frustration falls on those who were expected to deliver them to us.

Just so we don't get ahead of ourselves, let's look at what type of a player Beauchemin is. His best season was 4 years ago, 2005-6, his second year in the league (61GP, 34Pts). The following year was also a success as he helped his team win the Stanley Cup. Last season, Beauchemin missed 62 games with a torn ACL in his left knee, but returned to the Ducks in the post season, appearing in 13 playoff games. In 20 regular season games plus those 13 playoff games, Beauchemin had 5 goals and 1 assist. Yes, you read that right - 33 games, 1 assist. So far this season he already has 2 assists. So in 3 games he's doubled the number of assists he achieved last year in 33 games. That's like an eleven-hundred percent improvement, statistically. And still he's not measuring up to our expectations.

C'est la vie, Francois. Welcome to Toronto.

So, seriously, is there anybody out there who thinks Beauchemin should be Captain? Vote!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Battle of Ontario Blow-By-Blow, 2009-2010: Episode I

Welcome Leaf fans! The BoOBbB is back in business! Last season I did a series of posts recapping every critical moment (well, most of them) of every game (except one) of the Leafs-Sens season-series. For this game, however, something different - I'm actually at the game! Sec 324 Row 10 Seat 17. Greens in the corner. Not the best seats in the house, but I have a good view of the action and I'm pretty excited. The Leafs-Sens rivalry doesn't have nearly the same importance or intensity as it once did, but the Leafs are still looking for their first win of the year and they've already lost once at home to a division rival, so this should be a good one.

Questions in my mind 6 minutes before puck drop:

*Poni has a goal in each of the first two games. Can he keep the streak going and find the back of the net again to make it 3 in a row?

*Kulemin is in for his first game. How will he do?

*Blake hasn't done much yet (no goals, 1 assist). Will he break out tonight?

*And the big question - who will get the start? Buzz is that it's Gustavsson.

Two minutes to go. Refs are on the ice. Building starting to fill up nicely.

The MONSTER! is out of the tunnel first, leading the Leafs onto the ice! Whoohooo!!1

"Monster" chant in the upper bowl.

Gary Roberts tribute. Seems very fitting for a pre-game ceremony between these two teams. Last time I was here at the ACC I saw Sir Gary. All the players (including the Senators) are watching the video highlights of Roberts destroying the Sens in the playoffs, except Gustavsson who's skating around in big circles in the corners.

Roberts drops the ceremonial opening face-off between Stajan and Alfie.

First Period

20:00 Stajan, Blake, and Stalberg up front. Kaberle Beauchemin on defence.

19:20 Sweet moves by Kaberle leads to the first chance. Good first shift.

18:20 Poni, Grabbo, Hagman together. Sens can't get anything going.

17:45 The Monster makes his first stop. A wrist shot into the chest from a bad angle for an easy save.

17:30 A point shot gets through and the Monster is there for another save.

16:47 Coincidental minors for roughing. Seems like the ref is setting the bar a bit low. Nothing happened there at all, but Orr and Ruutu will go to the box.

16:30 Blake and Fisher come together hard and both go down.

15:40 Grabbo, around the net - off the post.

14:30 Leafs control the puck but can't create a rush or get over their side of centre.

14:10 Mitchell with a good chance. Good save Leclaire.

13:20 Komisarek shot blocked at the point, leads to a rush the other way for the Sens. Scoring chance, rebound, good save Monster.

13:04 Chris Kelly gets called for interference. Leafs go on the first powerplay of the game.

12:15 Nuthin' doin' with the man-advantage so far.

11:30 Point shot by White doesn't get through. That was the best scoring chance of the powerplay. Blah.

10:45 Good hit by Kulemin behind the Leaf net.

9:30 Stajan breaks in on the left side. Shot saved, deflects into the crowd.

9:00 Leafs continue to control the puck well, but the shots are even, 6-6.

8:20 Poni, in front, has the puck, can't figure out which way he's going, loses the puck into the corner.

7:15 The Leafs get away with a sloppy line change, and then more sloppy play for about a minute.

6:30 Exelby gets away with a hit-from-behind.

6:00 Orr with a partial breakaway, gets a shot on goal. Not sure that's what he was out there to do that shift.

5:40 Blake gets levelled deep in the Leafs' zone and then Stalberg gets clipped at the line.

4:55 Good save, Monster, on a hard slap shot. No rebound. He looks solid.

3:00 Blake-Schenn give-and-go creates a good chance.

1:55 Stalberg gets crunched at the Sens blueline.

:30 Poni gets a chance off a nuetral zone turnover. Shot goes high, out of play.

:10 Hagman shot nearly finds a way to the net. Period ends. 0-0.

Intermission thoughts: I thought the Monster looked good. Kaberle carried the puck well in that period. Shots are 8-8.

Second Period

20:00 Mitchell replaces Stalberg on the top unit.

19:25 Poni, with a chance at the side of the goal, is stopped.

18:10 Kaberle's shot is deflected, misses just wide.

17:50 Hagman at the side of the goal with the puck, can't finish.

17:25 Good chance for Kulemin in the slot, Leclaire with the save.

16:10 Orr breaks his stick on a hit by the bench, retrieves new one, stays on the ice with Stajan and Mitchell.

15:20 Blake with Poni and Grabbo. Wilson mixing things up.

14:10 Blake gets hit at the Sens' blue line after a long shift, looks hurt.

13:35 Stempniak pushed off the puck coming into the Sens' zone.

13:15 Goal. Ottawa scores an ugly, ugly. God, that goal was brutal. Leafs defence looked terrible as the Sens were allowed several attempt to bang a loose puck out of scramble and into the net. No one knocked anybody down and no one fell on the puck. Defenders are allowed to use their sticks, feet, and even hands to clear away pucks, and are given considerable leniency for physical play in front of the net - these types of goals just shouldn't happen in the NHL. Angry.

Play is under review. Ian White was indicating that it was knocked into the net with a glove.

Boo! Call stands. Terrible goal for the Leaf defenders. Donovan gets the credit, from Ruutu and Kelly.

12:38 Penalty shot for the Sens! Brutal call. I thought Schenn did a great job defending on what was only a partial breakaway. The Senators player is hurt on the play, I think it was Michalek.

They just showed the replay. There's no way that's a penalty shot. Schenn is equal distance to the goal as the Senator, and uses his stick and body to push him off to the side. Oh no! Plus a high-sticking penalty? Wow. The refs are suddenly screwing the Leafs.

Alfie takes the penalty shot. Boo! Scores. Goal. Fuck. Brutal. 2-0, Senators.

12:10 Chance for Foligno.

10:45 Point shot from the Sens doesn't get through, puck cleared, Schenn's penalty ends. Sens have had 7 shots in a row. Shots are 15-10 for Ottawa.

10:15 Kulemin shot in the slot, saved. Looked like a good chance, but a weak shot.

9:45 Good save, Monster. Sens carrying the play for a shift.

9:10 Grabbo-Hagman work the puck down the ice well but don't get a shot.

8:00 Kulemin on the ice now with Stajan and Blake but can't get anything going.

7:40 A quick shot off the draw and the Monster makes a big save.

6:45 Sens attacking. Point shot nearly gets through, goes wide. Rosehill talking to Neil at the face-off.

6:00 Rosehill throws a hit in the Ottawa zone.

5:25 Schenn with a nice hit.

5:20 Stempniak hitting.

5:00 minutes left in the 2nd. Leafs' offence really needs to get going.

4:30 White throws a clean hit.

4:15 Great chance for Hagman on a one-timer, stopped by Leclaire.

3:50 Nice tip attempt by Mitchell just misses.

2:55 Good Leaf pressure but then Mitchell almost gives the puck away to Spezza.

1:44 Grabbo steals the puck in the slot, gets a shot off Leclaire's shoulder.

:30 Sens control the play for about a minute, ending in a shot from the point that's stopped by the Monster with no rebound. Schenn and Beauchemin look like they still haven't got things figured out.

Intermission thoughts: The penalty-shot call was crap. I was expecting Gustavssn to stop it though. Very deflating when he didn't. Mitchell seems to be getting a lot of ice-time again. Leafs were horribly outshot in that period, 13-5.

Third Period

19:35 Poni takes a hit at the Leafs' blue line, still clears the zone.

16:20 Not much happening. I think Stalberg is hurt. Didn't see him at all in the 2nd and he's not on the bench. Could be bad news. (I've highlighted in bold two hits Stalberg took in the last 5 minutes of the 1st)

15:17 Poni battles to take the puck to the net and draws a holding penalty. Picard goes to the box.

14:55 Good point shot by Beauchemin. Rebound is loose for a moment and then smothered.

14:24 GOAL!!! Powerplay goal for Matt Stajan, finishing off a nice tic-tac-toe play to finally get the Leafs on the board. Beauchemin-Kaberle with the assists.

13:20 Neil nailed at centre-ice. Crowd back in the game.

12:15 Big hit by Beauchemin.

10:55 White takes out his man. Good defence.

10:35 Beauchemin hits the post! Point shot nearly ties the game.

9:30 Nice moves by White in the neutral zone to start a rush. Leafs are looking better, more dangerous.

8:30 Stempniak out with Grabbo and Poni. The Senators come close on a chance at the side of the goal.

8:20 Monster with another good save.

7:55 Stajan takes a bump in the defensive zone.

5:50 Stempniak trying to carry the puck through the nuetral zone with one hand. Leafs can't get anywhere.

4:20 Blake loses his wheels in the offensive zone.

3:50 Good shot by Ian White from the point is stopped by Leclaire.

3:00 Shot by Beauchemin misses wide. Grabb can't jam the wraparound.

2:25 Good save by the Monster on a high, hard shot.

1:40 White's point shot goes through everyboy, misses wide.

1:00 Garbage.

:50 Gustavsson to the bench.

:10 Leafs can't build a rush. Mild scramble near the crease area but no one can find the handle.

:05 Roughing penalties. Mitchell and Foligno. Leafs call a time-out.

:00 Leafs actually win the draw to get an excellent chance, but Kaberle misses. Game over. Leafs lose. Disapointment abounds. Final score Senators 2, Leafs 1.

The city really wants this team to win so bad. This loss is hard to swallow. Ottawa is not an especially good team, and Gustavsson played a very solid game, yet still the Leafs lost. Good luck on Saturday against the Penguins with the Vesa back in goal. The Leafs got a little screwed again by the refs, but that's small potatoes 'cause they didn't outplay the Senators nearly enough to deserve the win. There's a difinite lack of fire power here, but also emotion.

Shots were 14-7 in favour of the Leafs in the final frame, 28-27 for Ottawa overall. Not one fight.

The Third Star

Tomas Kaberle carried the puck well all night and had an assist on Stajan's goal. It's was a hard choice 'cause not many Leafs really stood out or had a great game.

The Second Star

Nikolai Kulemin had a few chances, but was also the only forward who threw body checks in all three zones on the ice

The First Star

Jonas Gustavsson. The Monster looked solid. He seems to have excellent poise to go along with his size, always looking relaxed and comfortable and big in the net. The Leafs as a group need to be better in front of their goaltenders. And they need to be the aggressors and to play with emotion.

Hopefully the Leafs will be a much-improve hockey team when these two "rivals" square off again.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sex With Numbers

Hard to do a statistical analysis after just a couple games, and frankly it's probably a bit pointless, but I went ahead and did it anyhow 'cause I like numbers and I like looking at them and I like the way they make me laugh sometimes. Sadly, most of the Leafs' numbers so far will make you cry.

Stajan and Poni need to shoot more. It's great that they both have 2 goals each already, and their shooting percentages are a sparkling 50%, but that means that they've each only taken 4 shots a piece total in the first 2 games. Not enough. Not when they should be leading the offence as they did last year. Both "top-six" forwards shouldn't have 7 players (Hagman, Beauchemin, Stempniak, Blake, Grabovski, Primeau, Stalberg) ahead of them in shots after 2 games.

Hagman has been our most complete player after 2 games. 1 goal, 1 assist, for 2 points, a plus 2, and leads the team with 10 shots on goal.

People complain that plus/minus is a meaningless stat, but I find it sometimes helps you see things that you wouldn't have noticed otherwise. Grabovski, Ponikarovsky, and White are all an eyebrow-raising plus 3 after the first 2 losses.

Beauchemin is a team-worst minus 4. Offensively though, he's second in shots-on-goal, with 8 from the blue line after just 2 games.

John Mitchell leads all forwards in ice time (19:33/g).

Luke Schenn leads the team in Hits, with 8. Right behind him is Komisarek with 7. Jeff Finger, who threw 5 in one game against the Caps, is third. I say we keep Finger in for now if he's gonna play like that. In the opener against Montreal, Exelby is credited with just 1 Hit.

Mike Komisarek is on pace for 697 PIMs this season, which would catapult him all the way up to 22nd on the Leafs' all-time list of penalty minute leaders.

Jonas Gustavsson earned his first-ever NHL loss on Saturday because the Leafs scored more then 2 goals but less then 7. The NHL credits the goalie who gave up the game-winning goal (Washington's 5th) as the loser, so despite the fact that the Leafs actually outscored the Caps 4-3 while he was in the net, the Monster earns his first loss of the season and his career. Nice one, Vesa. Meanwhile, Toskala is still sporting a nifty-looking .500 record at 0-0-1.

Ray Emery is 2-0-0 with a GAA of 1.00 and a .963 SV%.

Bozak, Hanson, and Tlusty all went pointless in their first game with the Marlies. It's not all bad news though - Joey MacDonald is now 1-0-0 with a 1.85 GAA and a .941 SV%.

So, if you're wondering about the title of this post - well, are you feeling screwed yet?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday Night Ramble

A new hockey season is here! Spirit is Everything again, except even more this time, with less losing, hopefully. A very warm welcome to any new readers here in the General Area. I'm going to try and spin out posts with a little more consistency again, but I usually get a little depressed in January/February, so we'll see how it goes.

First of all, let's kick things off with a little house-cleaning: I have a few announcements.

Francois Beauchemin won the poll for "favourite new Leaf" in a tight race over Kadri and Gustavsson. Bozak and Stalberg, for some reason, were left off the list, so we'll never know how that would have effected the voting. Congratulations Francois, I'd say you deserved it. Judging only what I saw in the pre-season, it looks like Beauchemin is a very solid defender.

The other poll I conducted recently was your favourite goaltending tandem. The winners were Potvin and Rhodes, with Vesa and Gustavsson close behind. Thanks to everyone for voting. I was gonna do a "Larry Murphy" poll, but ended up doing the goaltending one instead. I think it's safe to say that, with a late surge, the Vesa would have won the "Larry Murphy" trophy by a landslide.

Last announcement before I begin rambling: There's a new poll up. Wilson has announced his 3 Alternate Captains for the season (or, the time being) and (gasp!) none of them are Luke Schenn. Even more puzzling is the fact that he suggested the issue would be revisited again in a month, with a full-time Captain possibly being named in November (when it really matters! Oh wow, The Berger Prophecy is true?!). So - who do you think should be Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs? One of Wilson's chosen Alternates; Kaberle, Beauchemin, Komisarek, or my (our) choice, Luke Schenn. If we don't decide, Ron Wilson will do it for us. You have 30 days. Go.

Okay, enough with the formal pleasantries, let's get ready to RAMBLE!

MON 4(OT), TOR 3

Disappointing result, but Montreal loses Markov for four months, so there's a big picture here. The Leafs controlled the play well, but couldn't finish and seemed to lack the killer instinct needed to put it away. They worked hard for that 3-2 lead and then let it slip through their grasp. Do I sound like I'm talking about a Paul Maurice coached-team? Shudder. C'mon Wilson, Hanta Yo, Baby.


...is on pace for 162 goals. Awesome. That joke is going to be hilarious for about another 15 hours. Unfortunately, Matty didn't register an assist on opening night so I don't see how he's going to repeat his 40-assist performance this year when he's currently on pace for zero. In all seriousness, Stajan played a great game and was maybe the best Leaf on the ice. His first goal was a beautiful deflection off an equally beautiful feed from Tomas Kaberle on the powerplay. His second goal, also on the powerplay, came from going hard to the net and cashing in a loose puck off a Jason Blake stuff-in attempt.


The Vesa's save percentage is off to a rocky start. Do you think it'll go up or down after they play Washington and OV? Not that he was to blame for Thursday's loss, uh... entirely, but he didn't exactly impress too much either. Some good saves, but no biggies, and ultimately, one less then we needed. Still, we did get a point, which keeps Toskala's bizarre individual streak of not having lost an NHL game in regulation alive and up to 14 games. His last recorded defeat in regulation goes all the way back to a 2-0 loss to Carolina on January the 19th. His record over those 14 games is 4 wins, 1 OT win, 2 Shoot-out wins, 4 OT losses, 2 Shoot-out losses, and one no-decision.


The Zebras were not our friends on Thursday night, but in Toronto they never are and they're never going to be. We have to make our own rules. If Komisaerk has to spend 15 minutes in the box to get the point across, so be it. The main thing is to get the penalty-killing to the next level. If opponents know they will be punished for crossing the line, and realize that taking the punishment for the sake of a powerplay is mostly pointless, the payoff will be well worth it by December.

I Could Go On...

...and I guess I will. Primeau (4:22, -1) was on the ice too much doing too little, and Orr (1:28, 5PIM) wasn't on the ice enough...

...the Leafs had 46 shots but most of them were soft...

Are you playing SPG? I had Poni in the 1st period for the goal. I'm gonna be ultra-competitive about it this year 'cause I heard the winner gets Chemmy's job. Don't blame me if that isn't true...

There's a lot of really good new blogs out there. I've tried to keep up and added quite a few to the sidebar. The Blogs of Distinction will probably stay the way it is for awhile, but the Web of Distraction continues to grow and grow and there's a lot of really good material worth exploring. If you think you should be in there and for some reason I've missed you, drop me a link in the comments...

Also, THE TRUTHULENCE is fun and doing pretty well, so I think I'll keep that up. I'm hoping by the end of the year it'll make an awesome coffee table book. I've added all the blogs to the blog roll over there, and as you'll see if you check it out, the Barilkosphere has gotten HUGE. Congrats to everyone, keep 'er goin', and best of luck this season.

Don't forget to vote in the poll. Thanks for dropping by.