April 03, 2007

Still Alive

No, I'm not talking about the fan the Toronto Maple Leafs almost killed last Saturday night after they blew another 4-1 lead. I'm talking about their playoff chances. Somehow, someway, they're still in the race, and all signs are pointing towards a Hockey Night In Canada showdown with the Habs on Saturday to determine the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

Bring it. That would just be, like the NWO used to say, too sweet!

First of all though, I've got to rewind. What a ridiculous few days it has been.

Friday night, Raps in Washington, and Mo Pete hits one of the most ridiculous shots on one of the most ridiculous plays I've ever seen in a basketball game. The Wizards player, Ruffin I believe it was, is obviously a moron. He threw the ball up in the air for some reason, but it came down to Mo Pete still in play with about a second left on the clock. If you're going to chuck the ball in the air, at least chuck it past the half-court line and into the opponents territory. What a guy, that Ruffin, and what a chuck.

Speaking of chuck, Swirsky went bananas when Mo Pete's shot dropped. Gotta love the Swirsk. The Raps were given a gift, and huge props out to Peterson for hitting his only shot of regulation time. He only played eight seconds!

That's what I call efficient MP3 downloading. High speed, please!

I've got to give Sam Mitchell props as well. He kept saying in the media that Mo Pete, although he was struggling, just had to be ready, because the Raps were going to need him. Sam Mitchell for Coach of the Year. Do it up.

The game went to overtime, Bosh took over and the Raps picked up another huge win. Money in the bank.

Interesting note. TJ Ford fouled out in overtime, and not for one moment was I the least bit concerned. Jose Calderon is the best backup point guard in the NBA, and I'm completely comfortable with this guy running the offense. It was a good feeling. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love that little Spaniard.

Rewind to Saturday night. Leafs and Pens. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc Andre Fleury. All those bloody youths the Pens have rode to a hundred point season. The Leafs needing the two points to stay alive in the playoff race.

First of all, I hate, and I mean seriously hate, Gary Roberts. I'm not sure what the deal is, but he's clearly got some beef and loves to score against the Leafs. Hey Roberts, the Leafs wanted to sign you, you just wouldn't sign without your injured pal Joe Niewendyke. Roberts is a prick. I hate the fact that he gets up for games against the Leafs, because he wants to beat them so badly.

So the Leafs played a strong 50 minutes and were up 4-1. But of course, the wheels well off and with about 10 seconds left, with the Leafs up 4-3, Roberts ran McCabe into the boards on a questionable play from behind. McCabe, clearly peeved with Roberts as I am, gave him a shove and then a cross-check right in the numbers. It was a beauty of a cross-check. I want to see it again. Wait, I'm picturing it. There it is. Yes, beauty.

To make a long story short, the Leafs blew another 4-1 lead, this time giving up the tying goal with only four seconds left in the third period. We're going to overtime.

Amidst all the commotion of the tying goal, a fan had a heart attack in the stands. I guess the fan just couldn't take much more of the Leafs blowing huge leads. It was too much to handle. CPR was performed by a nurse and some doctors and they saved the man's life. Overtime was delayed ten minutes.

Not only was a life saved, but I think the Leafs season might have been as well. The Pens were all over the Leafs in the final five minutes and had all the momentum going into the extra session. However, the delay caused by the fan's heart attack benefited the Leafs and Kaberle found the back of the net in overtime to get the Leafs the win. Like I said, ridiculous. Kabby played a phenomenal game with two goals and an assist. But seriously, the Leafs are hammered. How they can blow 4-1 leads is mind-blowing. But they got the two points, and, I know it's a broken record, but that's all that matters.

Rewind to Sunday. I told you, it was a ridiculous weekend. Charlotte Bobcats in town to face the Raptors. Most obvious observation of the weekend - wow, the Bobcats seriously suck. The Raps dominated and in the process clinched a playoff spot. It's official, the Toronto Raptors are going back to the post-season. Credibility has been restored to this once-pitiful franchise. Thank you Bryan Colangelo, thank you. Like Tupac said, you are appreciated. You'll never really know how much you mean to me, and to all of us Toronto Raptors fans. You truly have been our saviour.

On a side note, how well is Bryan Colangelo always dressed? Dude's got an impeccable taste for fashion. Always looking fly on the sidelines. He just exudes confidence and charisma. BC is the man.

The playoffs are a lock, and the first-ever division title is soon to follow. Just a few more days. This is the best Raptors team of all time. I know, they haven't been around all that long, but that don't mean a thing to me.

The Leafs also had a Sunday affair, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Straight up, they got spanked. It was a well-deserved beating, and honestly, the Leafs were due. It was their third game in four nights and they looked tired. Raycroft completely shit the bed, and that was bound to happen sooner or later. Sooner. Definitely sooner. I was telling some friends Sunday night, it was a good loss, because the Leafs got the losing out of their system. They had to win their three remaining games after all.

However, some good did come out of the beating. I'm proud to say, ladies and gentleman, that The Poni Express has reached its destination! Twenty-one goals! Poni tallied two goals over the weekend and made me $100 richer. It's been a great ride. Get it? Poni, ride? Oh come. Anyways, Poni, much to the chagrin of my main man 40, has proven himself to be a bonafide 20 goal scorer in the NHL. I couldn't be happier for the guy. He's proven me to be a pretty smart dude because I always knew he could do it.

Back to the spanking. It was the Leafs' game in hand on the Montreal Canadiens. The loss, although damaging, left them in the same position they were in after Saturday's dramatic overtime win over the Penguins. Still in 9th place, only one point out of 8th. Nothing changed. I don't know why everyone was going all buck wild saying it was all over, and that the Leafs were done. The Leafs certainly weren't going to win every game left on the schedule, and they never really play well at the Garden anyways. No worries.

Even if the Leafs had beaten the Rangers, and were then a point ahead of Montreal, in order to ensure themselves of a playoff spot, they still would have to win their remaining three games, including the finale against the Habs. Win or lose that Rangers game, nothing changed. It really didn't matter. So it's ok they got spanked. Leafs Nation, calm down.

I've been saying it for about a week now. The Leafs are going to make the post season, they're just making things really interesting. They never seem to do things the easy way anyways.

And now rewind to Monday. Amidst all the excitement of the Raps clinching a playoff berth and the Leafs playoff chase, freaking baseball season began with the Jays visiting the Detroit Tigers. That's right, the AL Champion Detroit Tigers. A good test for the Blue Jays right out the gate.

Doc Halladay against Jeremy Bonderman. It was a great game. A pitcher's duel. The Jays struck early in the first inning for three runs and really had me pumped, but the bats were silent for the rest of the match, until the 10th inning.

The Jays have the reputation of a team that doesn't steal a lot of bags, and I was pleasantly surprised to see both Reed Johnson and Vernon Wells swipe second base in the first inning. I think it shocked the Tigers. And they stole the bags off none other than Pudge Rodriguez. Great calls by John Gibbons. If you've got the reputation of a team that doesn't steal, by all means, start the runners. Like Young Jeezy, I love it.

Halladay went six solid innings. No need to tire him out in the first game. Only 161 more to go. Baseball season is way too long. And that is one valuable arm.

How about Casey Janssen? I heard he had a great spring and he came in for Doc in the seventh. I've got to admit, I was nervous. Janssen as a middle relief man? The dude retired all seven batters he faced, and looked good doing it. The Jays seem better equipped this year than last. Although I have my concerns about the bullpen, Janssen did well to calm my fears. If five inning wonders like Chacin and Towers struggle this year, which they certainly will, the Jays have guys like Marcum, Janssen and Zombrano to come in and stop the bleeding.

Still a bit surprised to see Towers make the team as the 5th starter. He did have a great spring though, and as of right now, I'm willing to give him another shot. He really did have a great 2005 and if he can somehow get back to that, the Jays could be banging on the door to the post-season. That's enough to make me give him another shot. But, it's certainly a short leash, like JP Ricciardi said. Two bad losses, and the plug has got to be pulled.

I can't believe its been 14 years since the Jays last played in the playoffs. That is a long time. I am getting old. I was too young to really celebrate the Jays' back to back titles of the early 90's. You know, really celebrate them. When the Jays won back then, I was all about having a second round of chocolate milk, not rum and coke's. It's been way too long, man.

And how good does Frank Thomas look in a Jays uniform? He's a beast. And I thought Troy Glaus was big.

And shoutout to Glaus for his timely hit in the 10th inning with the bases loaded. That got me out of my seat. It's all about Blue Jays baseball - You've gotta believe. Sick marketing.

That's it for the rewind. I wasn't kidding. It's been a crazy few days. Tonight was no different, as the Leafs managed to maintain a pulse in the playoff race. The Habs won, so the Leafs remain a point behind Montreal. The Leafs still control their own destiny. If they win on Thursday in Long Island, against the Rick Dipietro-less Islanders, and knock off the Habs in regulation Saturday, playoffs here we come! Here we come playoffs!

The task at hand is simple. Well, not simple. Hell, they needed overtime to beat the lowly Flyers. I was lucky enough to be at the game tonight and it was bedlam - back to bedlam, James Blunt style - when McCabe scored in OT.

Two more games. Two more wins. That's it. Thursday is going to be tough. The Nassau Colisseum is another building the Leafs simply haven't had a lot of success in over the years. Sundin didn't pot one tonight, although I was hoping my presence at the ACC would get a rise out of him. You know, he'd feel me there. Like he did the night in Edmonton when he got his 1000th point right in front of me. I can't even remember the last time he scored. But it doesn't matter, because, say it with me, we got the two points.

Last year it was Sundin who carried the Leafs on his back down the stretch. He ripped it in the last 15 games, but alas, it wasn't enough. This year, it is the Leafs who are finally carrying their Captain on their backs. Guys like Antropov, Gill and White are scoring goals and keeping the Leafs alive. It's fun to watch. Maybe, just maybe, this time Sundin will take the team on his back once the second-season begins.

They've just got to make it there. Because if they do, anything can happen. They've got to do it for Mats.

Til Thursday against the Islanders, in another do-or-die, goodnight Toronto...


Nitin said...