January 17, 2007

Welcome Back

I don't know who the hell that was playing goal for the Leafs tonight, but it sure as hell couldn't have been Andrew Raycroft. He was amazing tonight! Stoning Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis left and right all game, and they're not exactly the easiest guys to stop.

Certainly a standard Maple Leafs win. Coming off a pathetic performance at home against the Canucks, in which Raycroft probably had his worst game of the season - that one goal he let in, which bounced off his glove after his pathetic attempt to catch it, was really sad - and playing a Tampa Bay Lightning team that had won five in a row.

Yep, of course the Leafs would win this game. And win it they did. 4-2 final, with Steen potting the winner. And Raycroft was the number one star. Hard facts to believe eh? I know, tell me about it. Steen scoring game winning goals - assisted by Stajan to boot - and Raycroft turning away two of the hottest shooters in the league. Classic Leafs hockey, baby. When you least expect it, they turn in a solid performance.

Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky returned to the lineup tonight. And I guess the good version of Andrew Raycroft also returned to the lineup tonight. Welcome back, boys. See what happens when you get good goaltending? The penalty kill actually kills off penalties, and the team wins the game! The penalty kill has been atrocious recently and like Joe Bowen always says, the goaltender is the most important penalty killer of all. So as Raycroft goes, so goes the PK. And since Raycroft sucks 85% of the time, so does the penalty kill. Yes, it's true, you really do learn something new every day.

On a side note, Antropov and Poni were outstanding in their return to game action. Both finished with a goal and an assist and played solid all around games, especially Antropov. Poni potted the empty netter, and that's fine by me. He just needs 9 more!

Sorry, I'm having a hard time focusing. Just can't believe how well Raycroft played tonight. It's kind of infuriating, because you see that he does have some talent, it just seems to come out only once every 15 games. The Leafs are so terribly inconsistent, and for some reason they play much better on the road. They keep their game simple on the road, and it's paying dividends. I'm not sure why they stink at home, it may be that they're just trying too hard. They definitely need to get better at the ACC if they want to make the playoffs.

But the immediate future has a lot of road games in store, so hopefully they can continue their success away from home. Another big game is on deck Thursday night in Miami. The Panthers embarrassed the Leafs last time these two teams met, so hopefully the Leafs remember it and return the favour. And Raycroft better play just as well as he did tonight, otherwise Aubin needs to see some ice. One good game by Raycroft should not, by any means, solidify him as the Leafs' number one goaltender.

Enough about Raycroft. Shout outs to John Pohl and Bates Battaglia tonight. Pohl's goal to tie the game up wit six seconds left in the 2nd period was huge. It gave the Leafs life and they played a determined third period, and held the Bolts to only two shots in the final stanza.

Oh yeah, funny thing about the winning goal. If you see the replay, Stajan totally fanned on his wrist shot attempt, and the puck just rolled onto Denis, who was in position to stop an actual shot, not Stajan's putt for the hole. The puck hit Denis' pad, went right back to Stajan and he fed Steen for the game winner. For once, Stajan's ineptness paid off. Well done Matty.

On another note, I spoke to a friend of mine, Karn, who lives in Boston. He read the post about the Patriots - yes, people actually read this blog sometimes - and was telling me what an intense football fan he has become.

He said the anticipation is building for the big game this weekend.

Now my friend is a Torontonian at heart, but has been studying in Boston for the past four years. He mentioned how it's cool to live in a city where the sports teams actually win sometimes.

I found that rather poetic.

Clearly he forgot about the Toronto Argonauts and the Toronto Rock.

I guess he meant the sports teams that actually matter.

Yeah, it must be nice.

Goodnight, Toronto...