April 20, 2007

Return To Vinsanity

It's been a hell of a long time since I checked in. First of all, that picture right there is a beautiful one. It speaks for itself. Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors. These dinosaurs were on the brink of extinction, but a miracle took place this past season. The miracle known as Bryan Colangelo.

The party is just getting started, though. The man once known so fondly as "Air Canada" is set to touch down in Toronto Saturday afternoon at 12:30 pm.

Raptors and Nets. The past vs the future. Oh mommy, it's going to be a doozy!

I have to admit, I'm worried. All Vince Carter, the ungrateful whore, has ever needed to be one of the best players in the NBA is motivation. Twenty thousand fans booing his name, and calls for his head to be delivered on a stake to the Toronto fans, yeah, I'd definitely call that motivation. Carter has the talent to win a series by himself, and we all know there's nothing more he would love than to stick it to Toronto, yet again. He's a bastard, he gets off on pissing us off.

And the Raptors most experienced playoff player is Darrick Martin. Yeah, the dude who's half-coach, half-player. I love him, but the Nets have all the experience in the world.

I also stumbled upon a shocking statistic that blew me away. Vince Carter played every game for the Nets this season. All 82! He didn't miss a single game! It's the first time he's played a full season since the 1999-2000 season. In the past two years, Carter has only missed three games. It's been quite the turn around for the man, I mean whore, who went from being called "Half Man, Half Amazing" to "Half Man, Half Season."

I still think the Raptors are a better team and play a better game. But the prospect of Carter lighting it up and the Nets winning this series just scares me. But it's fitting. The Raps have to slay the demons that Carter left behind, and I believe this is a great team, one that could reach the NBA Finals. The East is wide open, and if the Raptors play the team game they have played so well this year, they should be able to beat the one man show known as VC.

I'm ready for playoff basketball. I don't even remember the last time the Raptors were in the playoffs. I think it was that time when Chris Childs thought the Raptors were down by 4 points, but were only down by three, and he jacked up a 2-pointer in the dying seconds. What a moron.

It's a good thing the Maple Leafs are already golfing. Had they been in the playoffs, the Raptors would have been overshadowed by lunatics like myself who inexplicably put a solid and exciting Raptors squad second fiddle to Maple Leafs hockey. It's all about the dinos in Toronto right now, and they deserve it.

Speaking of those beloved Maple Leafs, I have to admit that April, and the NHL playoffs, are just not the same with the Buds on the sidelines. I've watched a few games, but the excitement and passion levels just aren't the same, naturally. When the Leafs are in the playoffs the vibe in this city is just great. It's been a while since a playoff hockey game was played in the T Dot. I miss it, I really do.

On a side note, I've adopted the Vancouver Canucks as my defacto playoff team. I've always had a soft spot for that beautiful city on the west coast, and plus, they have Roberto Luongo. He's so dreamy. Sometimes, I just sit at my window, staring out at the city, daydreaming about him. What a magnificent goalie. Life just isn't fair...

Anyways, the Leafs' run to the post-season came down to the final day of the regular season, and it was fitting that they lost not only in the shootout, but on a poke check by that fellow known as Dubie.

It was a crazy run by the Leafs. Another mad dash at the end of the season to get a playoff spot, and it just fell short, like last season. The final game between Toronto and Montreal was one for the ages. The Leafs knew they had to win, and get help from New Jersey, in order to make it. They did their job, just barely. That was one of the craziest hockey games I have ever seen. It was brutally played, but boy was it entertaining. Leads were blown, saves weren't made, but at the end the Leafs were left standing. It was probably the biggest game between Montreal and Toronto in the last 50 years and the Leafs crushed the playoff dreams of the Montreal Canadiens.

The joy wouldn't last, as the Islanders crushed the Leafs' playoff dreams a day later. That was another ridiculous game. Brodeur got the day off for the Devils, which was no surprise, but the Devils still made a game of it, sending the match to overtime with only 0.9 seconds left. The Leafs needed the Isles to lose, any which way, but it wasn't to be. The Isles won their shootout, and capped a remarkable last week to their season, in which they won their final four games, including a decisive win over the Leafs.

The Maple Leafs had no one to blame but themselves. Had they beaten the Isles two days before the Habs game, they would have been in the playoffs. They just simply didn't get it done. It was telling that in the biggest game of the season, Raycroft got pulled for Aubin. This is the guy who is supposed to be our number one goalie! Pulled in the biggest game of his life. It was a pathetic display of goaltending, and pretty much was all year.

You suck, Andrew Raycroft.

What blew my mind even more was two days after finishing a point ouf of a playoff spot, and cleaning out his locker, Raycroft told the media he was really happy with his season, because he got to play a lot and won a lot of games.

It's good to know the players, especially guys like Raycroft, give a shit. Sure he won 37 games, but that doesn't make up for the fact that all his other stats were disgusting. Yet he was proud of himself for not making the playoffs. What does it matter to these guys? They get a longer vacation and more golfing time. There's a culture of losing that has surounded the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to see them smiling and happy after missing the playoffs was disgusting.

It was a good run. The last few weeks of the season, those were my playoffs. It was an interesting season, and guys like White, Colaiacovo, Pohl and Devereaux really stepped up. Sundin had a decent season, but really slumped goal scoring wise down the stretch. Antropov proved he can be a solid NHLer and Poni got 21 goals, much to the delight of me and my wallet.

Hands down, Kaberle was the Leafs' MVP this season. He's the man.

Raycroft blows. I know this bum will be back in goal for the Leafs next season, and it will just prove that nothing ever changes with the Maple Leafs. It's the same old bullshit, the same old lies that they are putting the best team together in order to win. It's all lies. If they were putting the best team together, they'd go and sign J.S. Giguere in the off season, who's a free agent.

For the first time in recent memory, the Leafs head into the off season without any questions on defense. The top six is set, and everyone is under contract. It's the offense that needs to be addressed. Guys like Devereaux and Battaglia and Antropov need to all be resigned.

See ya later, and thanks for nothing, Jeff O'Neill, Yanic Perreault, and J.S. Aubin. If the Leafs can get Peca's name on a contract for $1.5 million max, they should do it. Otherwise, say goodbye to him too.

As for Sundin, he needs to take a paycut. If he's serious about winning a cup in Toronto he needs to free up some cash so the Leafs can make a run at some serious free agents. I want to see one of Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, or Ryan Smyth in the blue and white next year. It simply has to be done. The Leafs need another legitimate goal scorer. I'd love to get Drury, but I know that's probably just a dream. Paul Kariya's also a free agent. In my wildest dreams, the Leafs would land Drury and Giggy, but I know that's not going to happen. We're stuck with that lame excuse of a goalie, and those free agents are going to get top dollar.

At the end of the day, Sundin isn't worth $6 million. He needs to be around the $4 million mark. Do it, Mats. You've made enough coin, lets try and win now.

As you can see, the Leafs have sucked forever, at least since I've been a fan, yet here I am, already making plans for next year. I have issues. Help me.

As for my Jays, the injury bug has already hit them, and hard. What the hell is going on in Toronto when it comes to injuries and our pro-sports teams? Throw me a freakin bone here! It's getting out of control.

Troy Glaus and Brandon League are on the DL. Reed Johnson's out for two months with back spasms and B.J. Ryan is out a minimum of six weeks with elbow issues. Unbelievable.

The Jays have a decent team, but I don't think they have what it takes to get to the playoffs, especially with all the injuries. Halladay's been awesome to start the year while Burnett has been his usual inconsistent self. It seems as though A.J. will just never be able to put it all together.

Tomo Ohka's been pretty bad, and I was counting on that Japanese cat. What a disappointment. Even Josh Towers has won a game, and he looked fantastic doing it, dominating the Detroit Tigers. Yes, freakin Josh Towers.

The bullpen, without B.J. Ryan, is looking really, really weak. I think the Blue Jays really made a huge mistake in underestimating the value of Justin Speier. He was the most underrated reliever in all of baseball last year. He was lights out in the 8th inning and was the perfect man to pass the ball to B.J. Ryan. I know that League pitched great last year, but having him on the DL is killing the Jays right now. Instead of Speier in the 8th, the Jays are handing the ball to Shawn Marcum or Casey Janssen. That's just not good enough.

I have confidence in Jason Frasor to close out ballgames while BJ is out, but at the end of the day, we need BJ. We love BJ. And Frasor's no BJ.

I'm just kind of down on the Jays right now. Things are looking bleak. Hopefully, the rest of the guys on this team can stay healthy and pick it up while guys are injured. Frank Thomas has looked pretty brutal 3 weeks into the season. That's bound to turn around.

On a positive note, I love John McDonald. What a serviceable guy. And boy does he play some awesome defense.

And how about Aaron Hill? You heard it here first. This kid's going to be an all-star. It could even happen this year if he keeps it up. He's a great hitter and he's showing some Orlanda Hudson-esque range at second base. This guy's a keeper.

Here's hoping the Jays can show the same resiliency the Maple Leafs and, more importantly, the Raptors, showed in their respective seasons.

As for me, it's off to Boston. Fenway Park, here I come. Sunday night at 8pm, Yankees vs Red Sox. It doesn't really get much better than that.

Go Raptors!!!!!!1

Goodnight, Toronto...

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...