October 27, 2006

Leaf Thoughts - Oct 10th, 2006

Well folks, the Leafs season is under way. Here at Sports and The City, it’s all about my opinion, and you’re going to get a lot of it here. With that said, here’s the first of what I so creatively call: Leaf Thoughts – my take on the happenings in Leaf Nation.

Well, it’s been a week since the freakin’ Ottawa Senators came into town and ruined opening night. They’ve done that two years in a row now. You’re damn right I’m keeping score, although last year was just down right embarrassing. Battle of Ontario? It was more like the Beating of Ontario.

Although the Leafs lost, they played with the Sens. They actually had a decent game against them! A regular season game! One that counts! Right now, to begin this season – moral victories definitely count. Yes, the Leafs beat Ottawa in the final game of the regular season last year, but it was a completely meaningless game. After getting beaten like the piñata in the Troy Glaus commercial all season, it didn’t matter. It didn’t hide the shame. After a couple of those Leafs/Sens games last year, I’d wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, because I could swear Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza were still coming for more. Those merciless bastards.

The Sens definitely look like a different team – the loss of Chara really looks like it’s going to hurt. And the losses of Havlat and Smolinski are definitely noticeable. But they’re still a talented club.

The Leafs are certainly younger and quicker, and it showed. The score didn’t do the game justice, because the Leafs deserved a little better fate, although Gerber was solid. I still don’t think he’s the answer to Ottawa’s lifelong goaltending problem, but that’s better for Toronto.
Don’t get me wrong, the Leafs lost and it would have been a big boost to everyone – new coach, new approach, new attitude, new players – to start off with a win. It made the rematch against Ottawa all the more important, and I liked that. I was really curious to see how the Leafs would respond to another loss to Ottawa. Obviously, they didn’t want to lose two games to Ottawa to start the season. That would have been unacceptable.

Ahh, the rematch was a thing of beauty, eh? 6-0. Complete domination. Ruined their home opener. Sent Gerber to an early shower. It couldn’t have been better. Raycroft played well in the opener but he was fantastic the next night in Ottawa. He really stepped up. I couldn’t have written a better script.

There’s nothing like a solid beating of Ottawa. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with beating them, and it’s even better when it’s a laugher. I guess I can understand why they enjoyed kicking the crap out of the Leafs over and over and over and over again last year. It just doesn’t get old. I was on a Leafs high that night. I felt great.

Right then and there I knew this is different Leafs team. How about Kyle Wellwood? 4 assists. This kid has skills, and he’s going to get a chance to thrive playing with Sundin and seeing a lot of ice. He’s living the dream.

I’ll keep it simple. I’m liking what I see. The Leafs have already had two games in which they’ve managed to fire more than 45 shots at the opposition’s net – twice in the first four games. That only happened twice all season last year!

The opposition has found the twine behind Raycroft only 8 times in the first four games. That is the antithesis of Maple Leafs hockey! The Leafs on a couple of occasions in the last 3 years if I remember correctly, have let in eight goals in a single game - I try to block them out, but the memories haunt me.

The Leafs are skating hard and playing with speed through the neutral zone. The Florida game saw a couple of great back to back action moments. It was beautiful hockey to watch. The product on the ice is improved, and Maurice has brought with him a work ethic that this team needs.

Sundin looks great. He’s like a fine wine, he seems to get better with age. I know its early, but Raycroft is making it easier for me to sleep at night. Kubina has looked amazing out there! I’m almost giddy. But now he’s out 4-8 weeks. That’s a tough loss. I don’t want to think about it right now. Someone’s gotta step up.

My only beef? Belak, get him out of the line up!!!! He’s brutal. And Stajan. I don’t like Stajan.
A good start was crucial for this year’s edition of the Leafs. I’ve got a spring in my step. The hockey has been entertaining, and if the team continues to work hard like they are now – they will be competitive. As of right now, I’m buying into what John Ferguson Jr. and Paul Maurice are selling. Here’s hoping they can keep it up…

Goodnight, Toronto...