February 25, 2007

The Second Half

The dog days of February are in full effect. It's been almost three weeks since I checked in. The Blog-Star Break is over, and it's time to get back in the swing of things.

First of all, isn't that just a beautiful picture? I shall call it "Come to Kabby". Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, of course. The joy that a goal can bring to the faces of grown men is one of the most beautiful things about the great game of hockey.

Kabby and Co. are all smiles tonight as they continue their push towards the playoffs. The Leafs have been picking up points these past few weeks, which is exactly what they need to be doing, but are still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in - for now, at least. They're right there. I guess you could say they're siddling the playoffs. One point out of 8th spot. And guess what? The Leafs have a date with Les Canadiens, who are tied for that 8th spot, in Montreal Monday night.

It's time for this set of Leafs to exorcise the demons of last season. It all went horribly wrong in back-to-back must win games for the Leafs in Montreal last March. Those two losses cost the Leafs a trip to the dance. It's time to return the favour to the Habs. They've been choking for about a month now and the Leafs have got to kick these guys while they're down. If the Leafs want to stay in the race they've got to beat Montreal Monday night. It's as simple as that.

It's an intense time of year for the Leafs. The Eastern Conference is still extremely tight and every game is truly a huge game. The Buds have been solid since the new year, yet haven't really made up any ground in the standings. Before each and every game I find myself saying "wow, big game tonight." I love it.

Raycroft has started 23 games in a row. He must be drinking a lot of that Cheetah energy drink. "Yes, I Cheetah all the time."

Seriously, what the hell was Ben Johnson thinking when he decided to take part in those commercials? Yeah I know, he can definitely use the money but those have got to be some of the most ridiculous, low-budget commercials I have ever seen. Ben Johnson has done some messed up stuff before - he raced a horse, for God's sake - but those commercials are amazingly whack.

Raycroft is going to reach the 30 win mark anyday now. He hasn't been super in the net, but he hasn't been bad. He's winning games, and that's all he's paid to do. Screw the personal stats, all that counts is the W.

I have an idea though, for Paul Maurice. If a game goes to a shootout, put Aubin in. Let him come in off the bench cold and nervous. The shootout was another factor in the Leafs missing the playoffs last year, with the factor being that the Leafs sucks at it. This trend, of serious shootout sucking, has continued. And Raycroft isn't the best goalie one-on-one. Deking is the popular choice, but everyone knows Razor is also beatable high glove-side. But some of the dekes have made Raycroft look absolutely foolish. He practically ends up in the net as he moves back too quickly. Raycroft, I know you're the pro and all, but seriously, poke-check. Just try it.

I've got to shout out Jeff O'Neill. He scored his 20th goal of the season, eclipsing his total of last year, 19. This is the guy who I asked John Ferguson Jr. to trade for a stationary bike. I seriously thought it was a good deal for the Leafs. A brand new bike! But here I am publicly admitting it - O'Neill has proved me wrong. Immensely wrong. I'm not sure where the Leafs would be without O'Neill's 20 goals. Three of them have been game winners. O'Neill has got 41 points in 60 games and is a plus 4. He was a minus 20 last year. He's improved his offensive game, and his defensive game. He's bounced back from a really tough year both on and off the ice, and credit has got to be given where it's due.

Poni's new website is fantastic! Not really, but I've got to show love. I took a look, and left a message in the guestbook, confessing by undying devotion to the great Poni. He's got 16 goals. Only 5 more to go...

The injury bug has continued to bite the Leafs, and once again Pavel Kubina is the victim. This guy's just been cursed this season. As soon as he was starting to play well and really fit in, he fractures his finger, and will be out of the lineup for a few weeks. Tough break, literally. Kubey and Kabby were getting along so well. It's a shame.

Kubina's injury has opened the door for the Wizard of Woz - Andy Wozniewski. He played his first game since October, and picked up an assist in just less than 14 minutes of ice time. Not bad. The jury's still out on the Wizard of Woz. He doesn't seem like anything special, but if he can hold the fort while Kubina recovers, all the power to him. I'm off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of WOZ...

Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle have a combined 92 points this season. At about $9.5 million for the both of them per season, that's a bargain, I don't care what anyone says.

The Leafs have 20 games left to close out their schedule. They've got 69 points. To assure themselves of a playoff series, they've got to win 15 games. That's 30 points and would give them 99 on the season. If 99 points doesn't get them into the playoffs, I'll make like Ross Gellar from Friends and drink the fat.

The hard part is winning 15 out of 20 games. The chances of it happening are about as good as me making the Dean's List at good ol' Rye High. It ain't going to happen. Actually, the Leafs have a better shot than me and the Deaner List. Anyways, who will step up and carry this team into the post-season? Sundin has been phenomenal so far down the stretch. Raycroft has got to stand on his head. Tucker will come back within the next two weeks - will his return be too late? It's just a beautiful time of year - every game is important.

Tuesday, February 27th is TRADE DEADLINE DAY. The most exciting day of the hockey calendar year! A few deals have already been made, but DEADLINE DAY is always full of action. I'm going to be parked in front of my tv Tuesday afternoon, giddy with excitement. Will Ferguson and the Leafs make a move, maybe acquire a scoring winger, or a grinder like Jamal Mayers?

By the way, John Ferguson, Anson Carter for a 5th round pick? Like Happy Gilmore said, "Where the hell were you on that one, dipshit?"

On a side note, I was listening to Leafs Talk on Saturday night and a caller phoned in saying that the Leafs should let Sundin walk after the season as a free agent, and trade Ponikarovsky and Antropov. I wish I had this guy's phone number, because I want whatever he's smoking. I guess the Leafs should make Matt Stajan captain as well.

The Sundin bashing is just ridiculous. He is the greatest Maple Leaf of ALL TIME. What more do the people want? Sundin will retire a Leaf, deservedly so. He wants no favours. He doesn't want a trade to a contender so he can win a Cup. He wants to win a Cup here, with the Leafs. I'm not sure how likely that is, but I'll always respect Sundin for his years of tremendous service in the blue and white. If the Leafs fail to make the playoffs, this Captain is going down with the sinking ship.

Leafs and Habs Monday night. Deadline Day on Tuesday. The playoff race. It's nail biting time...


Our Toronto Raptors now have a five game lead over the New Jersey Nets in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors are going to make the playoffs. The Raptors are going to make the playoffs. The Raptors are going to make the playoffs. Sorry, I've got to say it three times just to make sure this is real. And it certainly is, baby!

Bring out the salami and cheese!

Chuck Swirsky has been bringing out the salami and cheese on a regular basis this season. The Raps, with 31 wins, have already passed last season's total of 28. It's all about progress, baby. I don't think anyone thought the Raps would be this good, this fast, and contending for home court advantage in the playoffs. I really want to give Brian Colangelo a hug.

The Fred Jones experiment is over in Toronto. He was dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for Juan Dixon. Jones, who was starting games at the beginning of the year, just flat out stunk. He couldn't hit his shots and soon was plastered to the bench a la Yogi Stewart. I think the Jones deal was the only one that didn't pan out for BC (Bryan Colangelo). He's allowed one bad deal.

I heard this deal was mainly made as a favour to Jones, because it was clear he wasn't part of the mix here in Toronto. Jones is from the Portland area. This deal just shows the class of BC. Jones still has two years left on his contract. He's got to appreciate the fact that BC traded him instead of letting him rot on the bench. BC's a rudey. I know it, you know it, and Fred Jones knows it.

As for the newest Raptor, Juan Dixon, I don't know much about the guy, other than the fact it's going to be tough for him to get in the lineup. The Raptors' rotation is set and solid. Dixon's going to have to fight Joey Graham for minutes, and that could be a good thing. Graham can use some healthy competition in order to better his game. We all know the talent is there - he had a SICK, WICKED AND NASTY dunk against Detroit - but Joey just needs to be a little bit more consistent.

The NBA, like me, also took some time off for their annual All-Star break. The NBA's festivities are the most entertaining when it comes to All-Star games. This year, they decided to have the game in Las Vegas. It was an entertaining weekend and a laugher of a game, with the Western Conference running away with it.

Chris Bosh, our favourite all-star, barely saw the ball in the first half. I guess because he plays in Toronto, Canada, no one really knows who the hell he is, so he didn't get any touches. He did, however, have a sick windmill jam in the second half.

All-Star games don't matter, and it was a well-deserved break for the Raptors, who now have to mentally prepare for their playoff push. The Raptors are no longer the hunters, they are the hunted. They are a first place team and a legitimate playoff contender. Wow, it's been a long time since even I've taken the Raptors this seriously.

I've always been a Raptors fan, and have always watched them with great pride and joy. I really got into basketball when hockey was locked out. The Raptors have come a long way since the end of the Vince Carter era.

Carter, who was in town along with his Nets on Valentine's Day, is no longer worth discussing. In that game, he once again showed his lack of class as a person and as a basketball player. It's not even worth getting into what he did. Just when I think I can't possibly think any less of him, he proves me wrong. Vince Carter is a loser (and an ungrateful whore). I'm done ripping on Carter. He's not even worth it anymore.

On a side note, why the hell was Vince judging the All-Star Slam Dunk Competition? Some cat from the Celtics won it, and it was full of mediocre dunks. I think the dunk-off needs to be abolished. Everything has already been done. And when guys like Kobe and Vince are judging, when they should be participating, what really is the point?

Vince Carter is a part of the past. There's no point in dwelling on him anymore. If the Raptors were in last place and the Nets in first, I'd still be bitter and still be booing Carter everytime he came into the ACC. But let's not even give him that much respect anymore. The Raptors are the contenders. The Raptors are going to the playoffs, and Carter will be watching it on television. As improbable as it seemed at the time the Carter deal was made, the Raptors have got the last laugh. The Raptors won the trade - wow, I NEVER, EVER thought I'd be saying that - simply by getting rid of the disease known as Vince Carter.

Sleep easy, Rob Babcock, you did the right thing. Like Tupac said, "I ain't mad at ya."

The Ungrateful Whore is no longer worth mentioning. The Raptors near future involves playoff basketball. The future is all about Chris Bosh, TJ Ford, Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Sam Mitchell. The future is now. Playoff basketball awaits, and this city is going to embrace the Raptors like never before. It's the Raptors turn.

Let's prove this isn't just a hockey town...

And, in what seems to surprise me every February, Spring Training has begun. The Blue Jays, the boys of summer, are back in business!

What the hell would I do without sports?

Goodnight, Toronto...


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