November 23, 2006

Tough Loss...

Difficult loss for the Leafs down in Buffalo tonight. 7-4 final. The score doesn't do the Leafs justice though. They fought back from being down 4-2 and the game was tied at 4 with about 6 minutes left. Raycroft messed up. It was a bad clearing attempt behind the net, and the puck ended up in our net. Just one of those things that happens every now and then. It was just brutal that it happened tonight. Excruciating timing. Raycroft's not going to get a lot of sleep tonight. But it happens. I'm a goalie too, I know how it feels. And believe me, it's not a good feeling. Knowing that you've let your teammates down, the guys you go to battle with, is not a pleasant feeling. But that's life - I trust that Raycroft will bounce back.

My two beefs of the night:

1) I hate that bloody horn down in Buffalo. It's not like other goal horns. It's louder. And comes off as too aggressive and abnoxious. The fact that I heard it seven times tonight probably made it get under my skin a little more, but that doesn't matter. I'm not feeling that horn.

2) What's up with the Sabres celebrating every goal like it's the greatest goal ever scored? They seem to be loving the arm pumpage. Afinogenov did it, Novotny did it, and Briere did it twice. Briere's game winning goal was absolutely brutal. Raycroft was on his derriere, after he tripped over himself, and Briere had an open net. Yet there he goes, skating into the corner, pumping his arm as if he'd just deked out the entire team. Briere needs a beating. The Sabres are annoyingly fast and extremely agitating. But they need to relax on the celebrations, otherwise it will come back to haunt them.

The Leafs should have had a point tonight as it was there for the taking. I hate games like these because these days it seems like every point squandered will come back to get you. The Leafs are done one quarter of their season, and are sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Games like these bother me, but I can't be upset with how the team has performed so far. In my last post, I asked for the hockey Gods to throw us a bone, and ease up on the injuries. The next night, Raycroft went down with his groin injury. Then Aubin missed a game with the flu. It's been one thing after another, and with all the injuries, I must admit the Leafs have done well so far through the first part of the season.

In this era of the salary cap, it's a lot more difficult to make trades, especially when injuries strike. The Leafs have been able to win games with a patched up defence core and without Mats Sundin. It's a testament to the system John Ferguson Jr. has set up in Toronto, and I think it's fair that he's been given a contract extension. But Johnny boy, don't take my words as a vote of confidence. I've still got my eye on you.

Sundin's been out for 6 games. I miss you bud. I hope to see you back on the ice on Saturday. The Buds have won three games, and lost three games since the Captain went down. I'll take that record without our best player. All I wanted was for us to stay afloat, and play .500 hockey. Kudos to guys for stepping up and playing well in Sundin's absence. I don't know who that guy wearing #80 is out there for the Leafs, but it's definitely not the Antropov of old. This is the Antropov that teases us with all the potential. And he's doing it again. My brother said it best, it's just about time he gets injured again. Wellwood has been great moving back to centre, and Poni is just evolving into a fantastic winger. I love the way he cuts in and drives to the net, using that big body of his. Only 13 goals to go baby!

The offence sputtered for a couple of games without Sundin, both losses to the Bruins and Devils, who play the most boring hockey ever. Both games were incredibly boring. I'm falling asleep just thinking about them. Back to my point - Sundin's a huge part of this team, and I think overall the team has done well without him. Peca has been a force on the PK all year, and although I long for the days when he could score 20 goals, I think he's doing a superb job with this team.

I can't say enough about Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, and most of all, may main man Tomas Kaberle. Tucker's got 15 goals, McCabe and Kaberle are I think tied for the top scoring defenceman and I truly believe that Kaberle is one of the most gifted defenseman to ever play for the Leafs. This guy can just pass the puck like nobody's business. It's beautiful to watch. The grace, the composure. Kabby is just a pleasure, and I can't wait to get his number 15 printed on the back of my jersey. So good, yet still so underrated.

I must admit, I love Paul Maurice. This guy is one helluva coach, and exactly the tonic this Leafs team needed. He knows when to get on the team. He knows when to lay off. He knows when to call a time-out. He just knows how to coach. A lot of media types are saying that the Leafs are the surprise team this year in the NHL. I'm not sure if I'd label them that, although I'm not really sure what expectations I had for them this year. I thought they would be competitive, but I guess they have exceeded most of my expectations. I just love the style of play Maurice employs. Everyone's got to work hard and be aggressive, and the hard work seems to be paying off. It's just such a much needed change from the laid back attitude under Pat Quinn, where players weren't really held accountable, and hard work was never encouraged. Maurice is the perfect man to be steering this Leafs ship. I've definitely bought into what he's been selling.

Before I leave you, some random thoughts:

- I read in the Star that the combined salaries of Frank Catallanotto and Shea Hillenbrand were $8.5 million last season. Both contracts are off the books now, and Thomas comes into the mix at $9 million. An actual increase of $500,000 in payroll for a DH who got some MVP consideration. Booyah! So all of you who say it's a bad signing, shutup.

- The aforementioned Catallannotto is now a Texan Ranger, and Justin Speier is now a Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim. Two classy guys who played well in their years with the Blue Jays. Their service is appreciated, and I wish em well.

- Morneau wins the American League MVP. I found out from the little tv screen in an elevator at work. It definitely took me by surprise. When I read the information, I just said "What?!?" and the person next to me looked like I was crazy. I thought, and still think, Jeter deserved it. Didn't think Morneau had a shot. Shows how much I know.

- Canadian's have won the MVP's in baseball, hockey and basketball in the last year. That is pretty incredible. Well done Justin Morneau, Joe Thornton and Steve Nash.

- Just imagine how bad the Toronto Raptors would be without Chris Bosh.

- Quebec as a nation within Canada? Stephen Harper is an idiot. Someone, please remind me to vote in the next election.

Goodnight, Toronto...