March 07, 2007

Defying Logic

The Leafs went into tonight's tilt with the Washington Capitals on the heels of a difficult week. They lost three out of four games, and they were important games - I guess all of them are this time of year. They also lost their best defenceman and, arguably, their best player in Tomas Kaberle.

How would they react in a must-win game against a struggling opponent with no hope of making the playoffs? Would they finally put together a decent home game?

What would you do if you were Paul Maurice? I know what I would do. I'd ride my horses - I'd play the hell out of Sundin, McCabe and Perreault. No Panic Yanic was brought in to score some goals, and I'd give him that chance.

It seems Paul Maurice and I were on a different page tonight. Hell, we weren't even reading the same book.

Sundin played less than five minutes in the first period, and finished with a touch less than 18 minutes of ice time - well below his season average. I would have thrown Sundin out there for at least 10 minutes in the first period, to make sure the Leafs came out strong and controlled the play.

What's even more shocking is the fact that Matt Stajan played 17:39, second among Leaf forwards and second to only the Captain.

Matt freaking Stajan.

Once again, he did nothing tonight. It's amazing how much Stajan's ice time has gone up this year, and his point totals haven't. Stajan defines stagnation. Matt Stagnation Stajan. I like it.

It does seem like he's working hard, but the results just aren't there. I just don't like him. Yes, he's set a career high for points, but I don't think he's hit double digits in goals yet. It's just not there, and I'm afraid I will forever be a Stajan-hater. I don't know what the Leafs see in him.

What's even more shocking than Stajan's ice time - yes, apparently things can be more shocking than that - Yanic Perreault, the Leafs' prized trade deadline acquisition, played six minutes and fifty-one seconds tonight.


That's it. And he scored the second goal, and it was a beauty.

I said it the other night in my post - every instinct that would seem to be correct in regards to this Leafs team, is wrong. You would think logic would deem that in order to finally secure a win on home ice, the Leafs would play their best players. But no. Paul Maurice did the opposite, like George Costanza, and it worked. A 3-0 Leafs victory over the hapless Washington Capitals and for now, sole posession of 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

I don't get it. I really don't. But the Leafs picked up the dubya, and that's all that matters at the end of the night.

However, less than seven minutes of ice time for Perreault? For the love of God, play the man. Give him Stajan's 17 minutes. The Leafs won the game, and all credit goes to Maurice and his staff, but when it comes to these two guys the Leafs have it all wrong right now. Perreault's faceoff ability alone should result in him playing more than Stajan, the useless wonder.

Tucker and Perreault both bagged their 20th goals of the season tonight. Tucker's was probably the ugliest goal the Leafs have scored all season, as a rebound from John Pohl's shot went off Darcy's arm and into the net. It was a big goal though, as it came after the Leafs were unable to score on a two-man advantage for more than a minute and a half.

Speaking of the power play, what the hell has happened to it? The Leafs have had a top-five ranked power play the last two seasons but the power play now sits in 15th spot in the league. Tucker and Wellwood have sorely been missed in the last two months, and that's when the PP has plummeted. Now, without Kaberle to bring the puck up ice, and set up inside the zone, the PP is just a struggle. Nobody is moving around out there or going to the front of the net. On the two-man advantage tonight the Leafs didn't even register one quality scoring chance. It was difficult to watch. With Kaberle out of the lineup, McCabe is on his wrong wing and doesn't have Kabby setting him up for the one-timer. Ian White is doing is best out there, and he's got extremely huge - Shaq size huge - shoes to fill.

Personally, I'd have put Kubina out there with Mccabe. But what the hell do I know.

I've got to shout out Kubina. He came back into the lineup tonight and played a solid 17 minutes and picked up an assist. He said publicly that his broken finger is not 100% but that he'll play through the pain because he knows the Leafs need him out there right now. That's how to do it, Pavel. He's putting the team first. This guy is a team player, and he really wants to succeed, both on a team and personal level. He knows he's had a nightmare of a season, but all that can be forgotten if he plays some great hockey down the stretch. Attaboy, Kubina. His return is huge, especially since it looks like Kabby is going to be out for a while.

Kyle Wellwood - remember him? - skated today in practice and said that he'll be back in the lineup next Tuesday when Tampa Bay is in town. That's encouraging news for the Leafs, who could definitely use the diminutive playmaker back in the lineup. God knows the power play needs him.

This is how the Leafs season has gone thus far. One guy comes back, and then another guy gets injured. The Leafs have lost close to 300 man games to injury this year - tops in the NHL. Their penalty kill has been at the bottom of the league for months, and their power play, which was once their strongest aspect, is now just average.

Paul Maurice said at the start of the season that it was going to be a dog fight to get into the playoffs. I figured that would be the case if everything went right for the Leafs. It hasn't been that way. Injuries have ravaged this team. It's hard to believe that with all the Leafs have gone through - the injuries, the goaltending questions, the lacklustre special teams - they are still fighting to make the second season. This team refuses to quit.

The Battle of Ontario resumes Thursday night in Ottawa and Saturday night in Toronto. As hard as the Leafs have battled all year, the Senators can make it all for not and really do some damage to Toronto's playoff dreams.

Ottawa has overcome a lot of adversity this season, and have gotten their house in order. They sit in fifth place in the conference and have been on a tear as of late. Ray Emery has proven to be more than a capable number one goaltender, and fighter/shit-disturber. Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza are two of the most talented forwards in the league, and I've always said that I'd love to see Mike Fisher in a Leafs uniform.

The Sens are a good team and are headed to the post season once again. The Leafs need to be thinking about a split in the home-and-home. They simply can't afford to lose both games.

Ottawa does look like the better team, but the Leafs have the uncanny ability of finding ways to win in order to stay in this playoff race. Wins that defy logic.

Maybe playing the hell out of Stajan is the answer. I don't know, and I HIGHLY doubt it, but it worked tonight. Heck, even Raycroft got a shutout tonight.

Now that, my friends, is defying logic.

Goodnight, Toronto...