October 30, 2007

Crashing Back Down To Earth

Last night's Capitals/Leafs game should have been played on Halloween because, oh my, it was scary. After playing their two best games of the young season the Leafs returned home and, as they've done with frightening regularity, stunk up the joint.

After the Leafs' impressive wins on the road in Pittsburgh and New York, I naturally pulled out the blue prints for the Toronto Stanley Cup parade route. Start out by going north on Bay St., then west on Front St...

After last night, it's safe to the blue prints have been tucked away once again. Far, far away. A 7-1 spanking at the hands of the hapless Washington Capitals was almost enough to make me light said blue prints on fire.

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Toronto Maple Leafs continue in their struggle to find their true identity and, in the process, continue to frustrate their oh so loyal fans. I, for one, am getting really tired of the ugly Mr. Hyde.

I don't get it. I simply don't get this team. How Toronto can play so well, on the road, against two playoff teams from a season ago, and then come home and make the Washington Capitals look like the Harlem Globetrotters of hockey, is something my little brain cannot comprehend.

It seemed like Toronto was finally getting on the right track. They put together two games of disciplined, defensive hockey, and only allowed three goals in the process. Vesa Toskala looked sharp in the net and it seemed like they were finally getting the message.

That message, it seems, goes on deaf ears on home ice. The Leafs have so far just been awful in their own building and the worrisome trend continued last night.

The game began in similar fashion. The Leafs found themselves down by a goal, as was the case in Pittsburgh and New York. They responded, however, with a goal of their own only seconds after they spotted the Capitals a lead. It was a 1-1 hockey game with 55 minutes left to go.

Then, before I could say "Andy Wozniewski sucks", the Capitals fired three goals past a helpless Toskala, it was 4-1 Washington, and Toskala was done for the night.

WTF!?!? The Leafs, once again, left their goalie out to dry. I feel for Toskala. The guy gets no help at all back there (I don't feel for Raycroft - he just sucks).

This game was eerily similar to the poundage the Leafs took when Hurricane Carolina swept into town a couple of weeks ago. There were no survivors that night, and it was much of the same yesterday. It was domination, pure and simple. Now lets be clear here, the Carolina Hurricanes are a strong team. But to lose 7-1 on home ice to the Washington Capitals - the Washington freaking Capitals - who came in to town with only one win in their previous seven games, is simply unacceptable. It's downright embarrassing.

Every team is going to get it's ass kicked every now and then - it's the nature of sports. Some nights, you're just not going to have your "A" game. Last night was, however, already the second night in October that the Leafs have been bent over and spanked like naughty little boys. It isn't fun. And it hurts. Something is wrong with this team. No NHL team should be getting schooled the way the Leafs have been, especially in their own building! It's infuriating.

The Maple Laughs have now surrendered a league-worst 52 goals in only 13 games. Fourteen of those goals have come in two games. I'm trying to be optimistic. The Leafs are still sitting at .500 right now (with a record of 5-5-3) and have five and a half months of hockey let to play, but someone has got to page Houston before this gets out of control, because we do have a problem.

As for a solution, lets please start with the banishment of Andy Wozniewski. He was a team worst -3 last night and, well, this guy just doesn't belong in the NHL. John Ferguson Jr.: Send the Woz to the minors, vote him off the island, do what you've got to; please just get rid of him. The saying goes that "you're only as good as your weakest link" and Andy Wozniewski, you are the weakest link, goodbye!

When the Leafs lost 7-1 to the Hurricanes, I told myself "it happens", and that it's better now in October than later in March or April during a playoff run. I'm telling myself the same thing now. Lets get the severe beatings out of the way. The Leafs have some kinks to sort out (ok, a ton of kinks) but there's still a lot of hockey to be played. I like to think of it like rehab - the first step is admitting you've got a problem. That's the only way this team is going to get better. They've got to face the demons that lye within.

(Hi. My name's Navin, and I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.)

The Leafs will now hit the road for four games, starting Friday night in New Jersey. That's welcome news to me. Let's get this team as far away as possible from the Air Canada Centre right now. The Leafs play a more simple game on the road, and that's the key right now; keeping it simple.

As for the injured and suspended Maple Leafs - Kyle Wellwood, Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker and Mark Bell - please hurry up and get healthy.

If you're still looking for a Halloween costume, may I suggest you head to your nearest sporting goods store and pick up a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, because this team is scaring the bejeezus out of me right now...