Friday, November 20, 2009

Leafs this week [14 - 20]

Weekly scoring statistics

Top Leafs this week:
1) Ian White - 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 11 PIM, and 6 shots on net - but most importantly, he was the only Leaf with a plus/minus in the positives, with + 1.

2) Vesa Toskala - a GAA of only 2.75 (way lower than his usual), he was solid against Calgary in a relief effort, and kept things close against the Senators. His save percentage is still a work in progress, though.

3) Colton Orr - had 2 fighting majors and only 1 shot on net - but he beat the bejesus out of some seriously tough mofos this week - deserving him top recognition. Let this indicate how poorly the Leafs were this week - that a losing goalie with only an 86.8 save percentage and a fighter who's second in +/- on the team (ranked even) are among the team's best players.

Notable(s) - good: Jason Blake had 3 assists, Matt Stajan has 2 goals and an assist, Francoise Beauchemin had a goal and two assists, Kessel had 15 shots on net, and Jamal Mayers had 17 PIM. Bad: Jeff Finger was a -4, Niklas Hagman was a -3 and mostly invisible all week, Lee Stempniak, although he scored, hardly looks like an NHLer out there, Luke Schenn has been all kinds of unreliable and inconsistent which is proven in his ice-time the coach is giving him and Gustavsson has the worst week of his life allowing a 6.44 GAA, and a stinky 84 sp. Not good.

Leafs record this week: winless with 3 losses - 1 point and they've fallen to last place overall. Overall record is 3-11-6, with 12 points leaving them in last place of their division and 15th in their conference and30th overall in the league. Only place from here is UP, so ... we can look forward to that. Do you think they can honestly finish the season in last place? Seriously? Oh man.

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Calgary Flames of Nov. 14
The Leafers lost another game with a score of 5-2 against the tough Calgary team. They were fast, they were strong and they were able to score early to chase Gustavsson from the net. Coaches' Corner's Don Cherry didn't feel that Gustavsson should have been held responsible for the early goals -

There was a consistently poor defensive effort from the whole team, and almost every player had a negative plus-minus rating by the end. The whole team was struggling. It was unfortunate that the Leafs weren't able to carry some more of the same effort that brought them success against the Red Wings only a week earlier. Even a tight game against the Chicago Blackhawks was a positive to build on, but the defensive effort wasn't there.

On a positive note, the Leafs were able to carry the play for most of the second half of the game - the bad side of this was that they weren't able to score - which should raise some flags. Calgary's Mikka Kiprusoff was fantastic, though. Yet, the Leafs have to face NHL-calibre goalies every night they play - that's why they're in the NHL, so they'll have to learn how to generate opportunities that yield more scoring. A good example would be the game they played against Minnesotta, where the Wild were able to score dirty redirections with traffic in front of the net. The Leafs have some big bodies to get that traffic - they just need some more finesse with tipping the puck.

It should be noted that Colton Orr laid a serious beat-down on Chris McGratton (McGratton is a major heavy-weight, who usually destroys people!). Someone mentioned not long ago that when the Leafs get into fights, they don't win hockey games. I suppose if you look at their statistics, in those three wins they have, there weren't any fighting majors. I'm not sure that there's a relationship between not winning and fighting - seeing as how the Leafs lose all the time, not just when they're fighting - but it was interesting to mention. In any case, Colton Orr is one of the best in the league at fighting and he proved it.

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Ottawa Senators of Nov. 17
To carry on with the fighting = losing, there were lots of fights in this game (one which I didn't have the opportunity to watch), and the Leafs lost. While I still don't believe there's a causal relationship here, Colton Orr destroyed Matt Carkner (Carkner is wicked-strong and a tough bad-ass). Whooping Carkner is no easy feat, yet Orr pulled it off. I am disappointed that you can't find highlights of big fights on the NHL website. They show all the goals, but none of the fights, to my dismay.

I don't expect the Leafs to lose every divisional game this year - no matter how bad they are and how good the teams in their division are, it's rare that a team is swept through six or eight meetings. That's a lot of losses. So the Leafs will wind up beating the Senators eventually - just not on this night.

This was a better defensive effort - and the Leafs played with a lot more fight in them, but beating up the Senators shouldn't be a challenge. For the rivalry to grow the Leafs need to win some games. We've hit the 20-game mark of the season, and it's time to take all that the team has learned over the first quarter and start moving in a positive direction. This should be a middle-of-the-pack team, there's no excuse for what's happening here.

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Carolina Hurricanes of Nov. 19
So when the two worst teams in the league come together, you likely won't see a very good hockey game. This is what happened when the two worst teams in the Leafs and 'Canes took to the ice - what I didn't expect was for the NHL to send their worst referees along with them. More on that in a sec.

I didn't get to watch all of this game, but I flipped back to it a few times. The Leafs were fantastic in the first period, they lost some of their jam in the second, and it was a like a peewee game in the third. This would be the definition of the troubled inconsistency the team has been playing with.

But the referees blew a double-minor call on Ian White (who's become "my boy!" now - he might be my favourite Leaf these days) which allowed Carolina to tie the game. Well, no problem, just get White out of the box and BAM! He scores the go ahead with less than 30 seconds left in the game. Good job White, just rest yourself on the bench and we'll wrap this game up and head home.

WAIT - while White's on the bench waiting to hit the showers, the Leafs blow the lead with merely 3 SECONDS to go! Oh man! Then they lost in the shootout. Unbelievable. The Leafs shouldn't be the worst team in the league. They just shouldn't be.

Phil Kessel won't score a goal every night - we know that, but where the hell was he? just over 14 minutes in ice time and he only managed 2 shots on net? What? He usually shoots an average of 7 each night. What happened to him?

Anyhow - the blown high-sticking call and then in overtime the Leafs put the puck in the net, but it's called back because "the play had been blown dead" which ... everyone and their dog could tell you, it wasn't. This is the exact same thing that happened to Detroit the other day, which you can see here:



Thanks to my brother for the link!

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HodgeMail on TSN
This is a neat email/viewer developed segment on TSN where Hodge provides a question, and then the viewers can email in and participate in the programming - which is pretty cool. The question the other day was, "What can Brian Burke do to fix the team now?"

Well - I'm sure there were a load of answers for Hodge, but frankly there's only one thing Burke CAN do, and that's sign free agents at the end of the season - and the entire NHL will be watching him very, very closely after tampering charges were laid against the team for last season's meddlesome efforts.

Why not bring players up from the minors? The players that are going to come in and help next season won't be players that he drafted (except MAYBE Khadri, but maybe not - who knows? and the two or three guys he signed out of college last year - even then, are they first-line impact players? Likely not) so he can't use the minors to improve.

Why not the draft? He's got no first-round picks for the foreseeable future -so he can't use those.

Why not trade for picks or players? He has an admitted bunch of third-line players (with the exception of only Phil Kessel) so he can't trade up for players or picks. He has nothing of significant enough value to trade for anything he wants or needs.

Seriously, the only thing that Burke can do is wait for the end of the season and sign free agents - whichever free agents are left to sign, that is.

Even if there were a lot of good free agents, how many can a team sign all at once, especially with a shrinking salary cap? AND what free agents are they likely to sign? The likes of Chris Pronger, Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo (who's really sucked this year), Marian Gaborik and Jay Bouwmeester who were all supposed to be free agents, were locked up and kept away. Any player that's worth keeping will be kept - big free agents don't seem to come up any more. And franchise players stay with franchises - don't expect to see Crosby, Ovechkin, any of the Staals, etc, etc walking into free agency and leaving it at that.

So it's going to be slim pickings for Burke - but moreso than it's ever been, this is his mess now. This team is all his - and stinking it up (which usually helps teams invest in the future with high draft picks) will actually make the division rival Boston Bruins a better team. If the players that the Leafs currently have don't have what it takes to improve - there's no help on the way.

[My suggestion - bench Schenn. The Leafs played some of their best hockey of last year with Schenn out of the lineup due to injuries. You can look it up for yourself if you don't believe me. It still wasn't good hockey, but it was better than when he was in the lineup.]

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