January 04, 2008

Penguins Layeth The Smacketh Downeth

I'm always bitching and moaning about the lack of accountability on the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club. Well, Paul Maurice and company ushered in 2008 with some changes, so I've got to show the team some respect. There's only one problem - the Leafs still stink.

Another spanking went into the books last night at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 6-2 final, including three goals by the Pens in 48 seconds early in the third period. Three goals in 48 seconds. I can't even make myself a drink in 48 seconds. OK, well, maybe if I try really hard.

As for those changes I mentioned. Andrew Raycroft has been sent to the bench, hopefully with some super glue so he can never play for the Leafs again, and Kyle Wellwood has been banished to the press box as a healthy scratch.

Raycrap can rot in goaltending hell but it's tough times for Welly. He was supposed to be the Leafs' second-line centre this season and was expected to put up 65 points. But it's clear to anyone who's been watching him play that he just isn't the same since his groin and abdominal injuries. I gotta say that Wellwood is one strange cat. He supposedly doesn't own a television and while being interviewed on Tuesday morning about his upcoming night off he was pretty upbeat, and was even wearing a smile. Umm, Kyle, you're supposed to be disappointed. At least show me you're freaking disappointed. I think the whole camera and television thing just tripped him out. At least I hope that was the case. Otherwise he's a douche.

The lineup changes worked on January 1st, although Toronto's opponent were the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are even more pathetic than my Leafs. Haha, losers! Scott Clemmensen, who broke my heart last year, was between the pipes and the Leafs actually won a game via the dreaded shootout. Seriously, I kid you not. A shootout against Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis. That's the NHL's leading scorer (Lecavalier), a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner (Richards), and a former scoring champion (St. Louis). Typical Toronto Maple Leafs. It proves that anyone, including Clemmensen, is better than Raycroft the goaltending sieve.

Wellwood was in the press box again last night and Clemmensen got his second straight start in goal, but it didn't matter. The Leafs hung Clemmensen out to dry like he was, well, Raycroft, and I'm guessing Wellwood will be back in the lineup on Saturday night after another anemic offensive performance by the boys in blue and white.

The good news? Isn't much, other than the amazing fact that Jason Blake scored for the first time on the road this freaking season last night at the Igloo. Only took half the year. Atta boy, Blake!

Here's what I'm upset about, and I'll keep it short and simple: Paul Maurice should have called a timeout when Pittsburgh made it 4-1, with two goals in 37 seconds. Instead, play continued and the Penguins bagged another one 11 seconds later. Then Maurice used his timeout, but by then it was already sweet dreams Toronto. Way to coach back there, Mo.

And for the love of Christ, Jiri Tlusty needs to be sent back down to the minors. The rookie played less than five minutes last night. There's no point for him to be playing on the fourth line with a playmaker like Wade Belak when he can be playing 20 minutes a game on the best team in the American Hockey League, the Toronto Marlies. Tlusty is only 19 and the Leafs can't afford to mess with this kid's development, yet they already are. The mismanagement up in here is unreal.

I'm starting to feel a bit Damien Cox-ish about the rest of this Leafs season. By that I mean negative as a mother sucker. The Leafs completed game 41 out of 82 last night, and have only 16 wins to their name. That's not good. Not good at all. The Leafs were handily beaten by a better team - a playoff team - in the Penguins last night. And while we're add it, lets add Ty Conklin's name to the list of goalies to beat the Leafs this season. Brutal.

I have kept believing the Leafs would turn it around - flick the proverbial switch - but since Toronto lost Vesa Toskala to injury, things have gotten seriously bleak 'round these parts. Toronto has dropped four of their last five contests, and seven of nine. The Leafs are the 26th-best-team (got to stay a little positive) in a 30-team-league. It's painful. I'm not too sure how much longer things will be allowed to continue this way, but I've got to believe that one of Maurice or JFJ are going to be picking up the classifieds in The Hockey News in the not-so-distant future.

The only man that can save this Leafs team, and a season that is quickly slipping away, is goaltender Toskala.

Fire the flare. I'm sending out an S.O.S.

There's just one more thing - Mark Bell, please stop fighting. Watching you get knocked out every time is embarrassing.