Sunday, December 30, 2007

Calling All Avery Haters

I am calling you all out. All of you who came out strong at Sean Avery after the Blake incident in Toronto. You said that Avery was an immature and wothless player and that he "deserves everything he gets." You may have said that he did something bad IF he did it. You may have said that he did do it. You may have wanted him dead or severely injured. But you all came out and went after him in some way. I did too.

It was revealed that he never said those comments to Blake. That much is known. But did anybody come out like a man and say that Avery is innocent and that the writer who made up the story did a terrible thing. Did anybody say one measly word about his innocence.

One person did. Everybody else crawled into their little holes and "forgot" that anything happened. I wrote a blog about his innocence. No comments. No surprise.

Well, it seems to be too late to pay attention to that, but try to pay attention to this.

Last season, the Rangers were 17-6-6 with Sean Avery and 23-24-4 without him.

This season, they are 11-5-1 with him and 8-10-3 without him.

The streak that led to the playoff berth last season began when Avery came over from the Kings. The streak that began 10 games into this season, began when Avery returned from an injury suffered during the second game of the year. It ended when he left the ice against Dallas with a wrist injury. And when the Rangers are playing the worst hockey of the year, he returns. They play strong in a losing effort vs Ottawa and come back with two convincing wins over Carolina and Toronto.

I am convinced. You can usually predict the outcome of a Rangers game after watching a preiod or so. Disregard the score. Just see who is winning those battles along the boards, who is first to the loose pucks and who is winning the physical battles. Do that and you will pick the winner 90% of the time. And the fact of the matter is that the Rangers, as a group, hustle a lot more when Avery is on the bench. They play a lot more physical when he is in the game. He brings more than a mouth. He brings motivation for a team who's coach can't motivate the team and who's captain has trouble motivating himself. He has only 2 goals and 8 assists in 17 games this season. But he assists in much more than scoring.

I am a beliver. Jump on the Avery bandwagon.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Message to Leafs Fans

Your team is not as bad as you think. That being said, they were downright awful tonight versus the Rangers. After a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Rangers you'd think the finger would be pointed at the goaltending. No, I'm not talking about some drunken Leafs fans gesturing at Raycroft, I'm talking about the blame game. After games like these, the coaching staff has to relax, and analyze what exactly did they do differently in this game that led to such a terrible result. The defensive woes are clear, but I'm sure it has more to do with strategy and match ups than the goaltending. Were the Leafs prepared to deal with the Rangers powerplay? Were they prepared to contain Jagr? Sure it's easy for us to say they weren't because we've seen the result, but believe it or not, the Leafs have to actually take something out of this game. Maybe it's more video analysis, or just a better job at matching up. The possibilities are endless, and it's up to the coaching staff to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, and what they can do to prevent future collapses of this sort. The great thing is that these are all things that can be corrected. The old saying that teams are never as good as you think they are when they win big, and never as bad as you think they are when they lose big rings true. Raycroft was not at fault tonight. Even if he was on his "A" game the score would still have ended up 3 or 4 to 1. Toskala would have helped, but that is irrelevant because it is not their issue.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

World Juniors and Spengler Cup Begin, Bernier and Cujo Sharp

It's that time of the year again Canadians, the World Juniors and the Spengler Cup are both now under way. Both tournaments got off on a good foot for the Canadian teams, the juniors winning 3-0 over the Czechs, and the semi-pros winning 4-3 in a shootout over Pardubice. The win wasn't the only similarity between the two teams. Jonathan Bernier was flat out sensational in his first ever World Junior Championship game, which oddly enough comes after his first ever NHL game. Bernier, as most of you know, started the LA Kings first game of the year in London, England. He made 44 saves for the shutout, in a game in which Canada was actually outshot by the Czechs. On the Spengler side of things, Curtis Joseph was strong in his first game in six months, especially in the shootout. He looked a little shaky early on, but the Cujo of old was seen in various points throughout the game.

Bernier was fantastic, as usual, and he looks so much more in control than he did when he was up with the Kings. It showed me that calling him up may have been a bit premature by the Kings, but he will be there sooner rather than later. I would catch myself just watching Bernier, in awe of his strength and agility. TSN kept saying that the starter's role was up for grabs between him and Steve Mason, but after tonight I highly doubt that. Nothing against Mason, it's just that you can't deny how well Bernier played today. The coaching staff needs to give him the ball so he can run with it, much like they did with Justin Pogge and Carey Price.

Joseph looked strong in his debut, sporting a new butterfly style, rather than his usual Hasek-like style. It may take him a few more games to get back into the swing of things, but I fully expect him to be back to his usual self by the time the tournament ends. That will put him in the perfect situation, ready to be signed by an NHL team looking for an upgrade in net for the stretch run (Pittsburgh, what are you waiting for!!?!?!?!?) All in all, it will be an interesting few weeks up ahead, and I look forward to sitting back, relaxing, and watching some great international hockey!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Great Stick Debate

We’ve seen it time and time again. A team is on the powerplay, down by one late in the third
period. There’s a man wide open at the side of the net, the pass comes and... his stick shatters into a million pieces. Talk about anti-climactic. People may ask the question, “why in the world will players keep using these composite sticks if they’re prone to breaking so easily?” but the reality is that the pros of using these sticks far outweigh the cons. Players can now take shots at a speed and quickness never before seen, a necessary attribute with today’s butterfly goaltenders. The flex of the sticks, which allows for more whip action, and the lightness cannot be matched by the classic wooden sticks. Then comes the counter-point “but players like Shanahan and Stastny still use wooden sticks, and it seems to be working out fine for them”, to which I say this: they are only using wooden sticks because of preference. They have stated that they would like to switch to composite, but they just can’t get used to the feel of them. Since they are still having success with the wooden sticks, they see no reason to change. There is still an undeniable advantage to using composite sticks. The reality is, the sticks don’t break all that often. It just seems like they do because it stands out to the fan watching the game on tv, and I don’t have a specific stat, but I estimate that there is one stick broken for every game. That really isn’t a lot, because despite popular belief, wooden sticks weren’t indestructible either.

It’s even got to the point that goalies are now using fully composite sticks, mainly for the weight factor. I use one myself and I really don’t see a huge difference, but it noticeably weighs less which helps. My point is that all of the fans who complain and whine over these “new-fangled composite sticks that always break”, should realize that they aren’t going anywhere. Players will continue to use them until the next stick invention is made, so sit back, relax, and get ready to watch the sticks explode some more.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Trip To Montreal

This past weekend, I was enjoying a snow filled, hockey inspired trip to the city that breathes... Montreal. Myself and three of my friends, one being a Habs fan, were all attending our first game live. What better place then the Bell Centre for a classic match with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens? The game is just oozing with intensity and pre-game gitters. Well, it appears the hockey gods had other plans and decided to ruin the party, well for the Blue & White amigos anyway. The game was pure domination by the Habs, they combined their solid play with a physical dominance at stretches throughout the game. They also took advantage of the Leafs and capitalized on their lackluster, uninspired, lazy plays. And, of course, a dash of luck was added to the mix. Three of the goals on burning hot Vesa Toskala were re-directs, and weird ones. Off our own players or off a Habs player's glove, it didn't matter, it just wasn't there. Oh and did I mention Bryan McCabe broke his hand in three places? Yikes batman.

With that said though, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible. The building was electric and would not cease to cheer ( with some random ''Go Leafs Go!'' chants in there as well). Because of this, I had a blast. The game did not match my expectations, but the Bell Centre surpassed mine. And the folks were downright classy. They yelled at me but it was all in good fun, a bunch of them came over to shake our hands and tell us ''good game''.....what a load that line was.

The city itself is absolutely breath taking. I was starring in amazement at the many facets of Montreal. I even visited the Montreal Casino ( and lost money, pf!) which was a new experience. I can't say I wasn't amazed by buying alchool in the grocery stores though... how delightful!

Now the trip takes a turn, which was still fun... somehow. To start, I ended up losing my voice shortly after the game from screaming like a mad man. Shortly after this, guess what decides to make its acquaintance? A snow storm. So we had to stay an extra day in Montreal... no big whoop right? Well, the following day we left the beautiful city of Montreal. We were off on the road and ready to go home. About three hours from Sudbury, we arrive in a little town called Mattawa. On our way through the city, we hit an ice patch on the road ( my friend was driving, and he's a Habs fan; figures) and the car goes berserk. The car swerves in the opposite lane, where there was luckily no cars passing, and then jolted back on the opposite side of the road. The car proceeded to hit a snow bank, going right through it, and flying at a fast enough speed through a gentleman's fence. Turns out the guy has, or had, barbed wire on top and two of the tires were popped. So now we get a local citizen to come help us out and push the car out of the guy's yard, after trying for nearly a half hour ourselves. But, it turns out my buddy ( reminder: Habs fan) locked his keys in the car by accident when he got out! So now the car is running and we can't get in.

After this, a police car got involved, and we had to fill out the report and what not. Now we had to call a tow-truck, but since we were four, he could only hold two of us with him. So me and the Haberoo got to ride in the police car. Myself in the back behind those dreadful bars, and an awkward amount of leg room ( seriously, they might as well cut off your legs). I was hoping the cop would bust a criminal so I could talk to him but no dice.

After all that, the trip ended. And it was faaannnnnnntastic!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

McCabe Breaks Hand in 3 Places, Leafs Nation Rejoices?

But seriously folks, I don't want to hear anything from the people who were ragging on him earlier this year. You wanted him gone, you got your wish. It looks like he'll be out for a while now. McCabe was hit awkwardly into the boards by Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn in the third period, and looked severely injured right away. After the game it was announced that McCabe suffered 3 broken bones in his hand on the play and will likely miss over six weeks, more if surgery is necessary. Leafs coach Paul Maurice was livid with the play after the game, basically calling it a cheap shot. I'm pretty sure that it was just the emotions talking, but you still have to be able to control what you say. Kostitsyn clearly did not intend to hurt McCabe, and nothing else should come of this.

To add insult to injury, with McCabe writhing in pain on the ice, the Habs' Alex Kovalev was able to go down the ice and score his 14th goal of the season. The rambunctious crowd of over 21 thousand (our own Ron Guillet one of them) saw goaltender Carey Price make 28 saves for the win, the same night that Jaroslav Halak was sent back down to Hamilton because of Cristobal Huet's injury being over. When you really boil it down, the Leafs not only lost the game tonight, they also lost their top minute eater which could prove to be their biggest loss of all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Luongo Injured, MacIntyre Recalled

Roberto Luongo will miss the next few games due to an apparent rib injury which has been aggravating him for the past few games. The Canucks have recalled Drew MacIntyre from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL to replace him. If that name rings a bell, it is probably because I did a scouting report on MacIntyre earlier this year when I saw him play a game in Hamilton against the Bulldogs. He played very well, and I was thoroughly impressed by him and his style. I even stated that I would like to see him at the next level, to see how he would fare. Well, now may be his chance. We don't know yet if he will actually get to play, or if backup Curtis Sanford will play all of the games while Luongo is out. We know that Sanford will start their next game, against the Ducks tomorrow. I hope the Canucks give him at least 1 game, because he deserves it, especially after the start he has had in the AHL this year. In 16 games so far this year, he has a 11-4-1 record, 2.28 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. Like I said before, I like MacIntyre's style and overall confidence, and I really hope to see him get a shot in Vancouver.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Importance Of Fighting

In the wake of recent discussions regarding fighting in the NHL, I feel I have to voice my opinion on to why it is so important in this league. The action of throwing down the fist cuffs and landing some hay makers on another human beings' face is certainly violent and dangerous, but not to that degree in hockey. This sport has lain its foundation on selling an up-pace, aggressive, hard nosed, intensity game ever since the league began in 1917. The art of fighting in the NHL is not just two goons who pound each other senseless for the simple act of retribution. It's a cornerstone of the game that can define a team's turn around and gain of momentum. It is also a selling point to those who are new to the game. Despite what some may think, this violent and aggressive action is what most fans enjoy to see. It is what separates the NHL from other sports. It has defined itself... do not take that away.

While many complain of cheap shots, like hitting the head, intent to injure, hitting from behind, etc., these are situation that are often run on emotions of the players who seek revenge on a certain player. It's a gutless act, but can you imagine the impact of removing fighting after seeing this? Fighting is not only a momentum gaining tactic, it's a dance that also vents two players frustrations on one another. Without fighting, how do players react to plays they don't like? Well, you'd see an increase on dirty plays which many fear is affecting the sports popularity.

To touch back on the roots of the game, fighting is also a factor in a teams success. Without a ''goon'', so to speak, who defends the all-star player? Who makes players think twice about roughing up their players or most importantly, the goaltender? Fighting in hockey is a message, or a tool rather to better define what the game is about.

Also, let's not forget about the fans. An aspect of the game that can lower or higher the spirits of a team. When a home teams' player wins a fight, when does it not jolt a burst of energy to the fans, which then translates to the players? Like it or not, fighting is a big part in the great game of hockey, it affects the many facets that makes this game so coveted by hockey fans around the world.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Interview With Cedrick Desjardins

This morning I had the chance to speak with Cedrick Desjardins of the Hamilton Bulldogs at Copps Coliseum. He was kind enough to answer all of my questions, despite being put on short notice. Cedrick played Major Junior hockey in Rimouski for 3 years before being traded to the Quebec Remparts in his final year of junior. He was not drafted, but was signed by the Montreal Canadiens and sent to their ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones. With the injury to Cristobal Huet, Jaroslav Halak was called up, which prompted Cedrick to be called up to the Bulldogs. In 10 games so far this year in the ECHL he has posted a 6-3-1 record with a 2.01 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage. I would like to thank Derek Wills, the Director of Broadcasting and Communications and Play-By-Play Announcer of the Hamilton Bulldogs for helping me set up this interview, it is much appreciated.

Greg: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions before a game?

Cedrick: The past four or five years I've started the same, doing my sticks and stuff, and playing with a bouncing ball. I'll do stretching, I'll pretty much do it the same way. I've got a ritual before every game, like the day before I'll take a nap and the same day too. Pretty much the same way (every game).

Greg: Do you remember your first AHL game, and what was that experience like?

Cedrick: My first AHL game was last year when I got called up here (Hamilton), I played a couple of games in exhibition, but my first real AHL game was in February of last year, we were down in Syracuse.

Greg: You played with Sidney Crosby in Rimouski, he certainly brought a lot of attention to the team, what was that like?

Cedrick: We were excited because everywhere we were going was a sold out crowd, and he was a great guy. He wasn't selfish at all. After games he'd have thousands of people waiting for him, and it was like he had a security guard only for him. On the bus we'd be eating our little chicken (dinners), and he'd still be signing autographs. Good memories about him. He was always a great guy, and it was a pleasure to play with him.

Greg: In your last year of Major Junior hockey you got traded from Rimouski to Quebec, was that a difficult adjustment for you?

Cedrick: It's always difficult the first time you get traded, I had tons of friends in Rimouski, I had a lot of friends there. It wasn't too bad though, they were two great organizations, so I didn't feel lost by that, but it's different. You have to build new friendships, same for your teammates. I didn't know anyone in Quebec, I only played with a couple of guys before. You have to meet different guys, meet a different coach. They trade for you because they want you and they trust you, so you have to prove to them as well. There was a little bit of pressure that I put on myself, but yeah that's the way it is.

Greg: Do you still keep in touch with any of the guys you played with in Rimouski?

Cedrick: Yeah, a couple of guys. A lot of the guys are playing pro right now, so sometimes we'll just shake hands, have a couple of pops. If they're available in the summer, I'll skate with a couple of guys who I played with in junior. It's always good memories in juniors.

Greg: Which former teammate or coach has helped you the most so far in your career?

Cedrick: I learned a lot in junior when I was with Rimouski because I had a great coach there, atmosphere and family, it was great. It was the same when I was in Quebec, I had a great goalie coach there, and of course my coach was Patrick Roy, he was also a good helper. Everything in Rimouski helped me to be a better goaltender, and when I came to Quebec it was a good step to help me be ready to go to the pros.

Greg: Besides hockey, did you play any other sports growing up?

Cedrick: I always played tons of sports, but the main ones were Baseball and Golf. They were my favourite in the summer. Those were pretty much the sports I was playing in the summer time, but in the winter it was always hockey. I didn't snowboard or anything, it was only hockey.

Greg: Did you always want to be a goaltender, ever since you were little?

Cedrick: I was a player until, like, Atom? We didn't have any goaltenders in our district, so I asked my Dad if I would be able to be a goalie. He wasn't very happy, he told me that I had great skills to be a player, he always wanted me to be a player, but he accepted it, he accepted my choice and he's pretty proud of it now.

Greg: You obviously made a good choice.

Cedrick: Yeah, exactly (Laughs)

Greg: When did you realize that you had a shot at playing professionally?

Cedrick: I was a little disappointed to not be drafted, so I kinda thought that I may need to go to school, I might have to deal with that and get a job, just play hockey for fun. After that I was struggling a little bit, but I had a great year in Rimouski, a great end of the year in Rimouski, then I had a great year in Quebec. I think hockey is just a passion for me and my family, so I didn't want to quit because I still had a chance to go to a higher level. They gave me a chance with a contract here in Montreal, and I'm waiting. Everything is so far so good right now in pro, so I try to take it one step at a time. I'll take my chances, perhaps I'll be able to get there.

Greg: What's your opinion on making nets bigger to increase scoring?

Cedrick: I don't think we're playing soccer. You can change the rules about holding and interference and stuff, that's good because it'll make the guys play faster, and when they play faster I think I'm the kind of goalie who's able to adjust to that easily. You can try to change the equipment on the goalie instead, but make sure his security (safety) is still good. I tried it at rookie camp with Montreal, in Toronto, and they had the bigger nets but the scores were still, like 3-1, 2-1, so it wasn't a big difference. They were a little bit bigger, but it didn't change it that much. There are a lot of other things you can do to change the game, but you can't touch the base of the game really.

Greg: Who is the funniest guy off the ice that you have ever played with?

Cedrick: The funniest guy... (thinks). It depends, I remember many funny parts, but the funniest guy...

Greg: Too many to name?

Cedrick:Yeah, all guys have their own humour, but I know J.P Cote here is a funny guy, I like him. I'm always training with him and he always has this big smile, and always has the little jokes to make you happy in the morning. Those kinds of guys I like, from here. When you're in the locker room a lot of guys have their own humour that make everyone happy, so yeah, that's pretty much it.

Greg: Is there any significance behind your number?

Cedrick: Yeah, but not the one here. The number I always have is 30, it's my birthday, and 3 is kind of my lucky number, so that's pretty much the reason why.

Greg: Who was your favourite player growing up?

Cedrick: I was a Nordique fan, so Joe Sakic as a forward was one of the guys I looked up to, and Gretzky and all those guys. As a goalie I was a little bit of a fan of Patrick Roy and a couple of other French guys like Brodeur or Luongo, those kind of guys. Pretty much all of the French guys that are in the NHL right now and are doing pretty good. It's pretty much like they are my mentors to get better, because those guys are able to do it.

Greg: What do you do in the offseason to prepare for the next season?

Cedrick: Training. Now guys, especially goalies, most of them are European guys and they are in really, really good shape. You need to increase your power, especially in your legs. You have to do a lot of footwork, a lot of squats to get your power and your strength to be ready for the season. Especially to get less injuries during the year. After the season I usually take one month off pretty much, but after that it'll be two or three months of training, so it's pretty intense.

Greg: What do you do in your spare time in the offseason?

Cedrick: I try to go out with my buddies that I haven't seen for a while. When the season starts we are so busy, sometimes I'll be able to call them but I'll never have time to go back home and see them, so the month off I have is to pretty much see everybody, family, friends, old teammates, go to a couple of parties and stuff and just hang out with them, so it's good.

Greg: Thank you very much for doing this!

Cedrick: No problem, my pleasure.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Vesa Toskala Superb : Prepare For New York Rangers

In the night the Leafs played the western conference Nashville Predators, there was one shining light of hope throughout the night. It was none other then the man I was defending a couple of weeks back. Vesa Toskala was nothing short of sensational last night, he was shutting down the Preds all night and drove Jason Arnott to a severe headache, who told Toskala during the game '' How the hell do I get one by you?'' Vesa replied with a smile. And that smile transferred to the fans, who were cheering as loud as I've heard them for the Finnish net minder. Chants of '' We love Vesa!'' were echoing throughout the ACC... until Kaberle tipped one past Toskala to spoil the shut-out about 5 seconds later. Figures. Either way, we got the 2 points and are now on a run with 3 wins in a row. But Thursday night will be a huge test for not only Toskala, but T-Dot's team, and more specifically defense. The core has clearly bought in to Paul Maurice's defense first approach and it's working beautifully so far. Vesa Toskala has not let in more than 3 goals in his last 11 full starts. He has had six 2 goals against games, three 3 goals against, one goal against twice, and 1 shut-out. He's been superb.

In come the New York Rangers, a team who's now second in the east making the Ottawa Senators actually look back in fear. Lundqvist has been nothing short of superb with 4 shutouts so far this season. Shanahan has woken from slumber and provided the Rangers with some offensive help. Jaromir Jagr, another sleeping beast, has awoken as well and is one of the main primers for the Rangers recent success. It appears the gears are now in motion and the Rangers mean business. I pick them to the win the cup in the East Conference. I pick the Vancouver Canucks for the West. Would be a good Stanley Cup Final.

The Leafs will have to tighten up on D and force Rangers to take shots from the perimeter. Do not worry about Vesa Toskala and just play your game, do not take chances. Play a simple, defensive, boring game and the W is in reach. 4 in a row would be a huge statement for a comeback and would raise the spirits of many.

Keep on truckin'!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recchi Placed On Waivers

Mark Recchi has been placed on waivers. This is intresting considering his cap hit is only at 1.75 mil per season. This allows many teams to swoop in and grab the struggling veteran. He's been a healthy scratch in 8 of his last 9 games and has only registered 2 goals and 6 assists in 17 games. Careful though JFJ, do not get your fingers greasy with this one. I think he'd be a decent signing to push for 7th or 8th place, but that should not be our goal. We need youth, and signing him would take a step backwards.

My prediction is Calgary takes him.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Flyer Suspended? That's New!

I know it may seem like I'm ragging on the Flyers, but it's kind of hard to ignore it when they are getting a suspension handed down every other game. The newest culprit: Riley Cote for his head-shot on Matt Niskanen of the Dallas Stars two days ago. Now I haven't seen it yet, so I'm not gonna BS my way through this, telling you how dirty of a hit it was. It was obviously bad enough to merit a 3-game suspension, because that is exactly what he got. My question is, "What is Gary Bettman waiting for?". Stick it to these guys already! Five suspensions already and we're not even half-way through the year. It's not like they haven't been warned yet, and these suspensions obviously aren't stopping them. Hit them where it hurts, either the pocketbook or the scoreboard. That's right, I'm suggesting that after a certain amount of suspensions the league should start to take away points from the team. Losing a goon for 3 or 4 games isn't punishment enough for the team, so the only plausible way we can rid the game of these cheap shots is to start taking away points after a certain amount of suspensions. Now we play the waiting game until the next Flyers suspension. What's the over-under on Ben Eager being next?

EDIT: Just so I don't look like a complete Flyer hater, Scott Nichol of the Preds has also been suspended for 5 games for his hit(s) on Montreal's Patrice Briesbois which I did see. Well deserved.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What Is Being a Fan?

When I think of the word ''fan'' I immediately see a drunken fat guy painted in team colors yelling at the rink with pride. But what really constitutes a fan? In many occurrences in my life, I've been faced with people who allegedly cheer for a team, but when things go awry, they turn away and grab the reins of another club. Actually most of the people I converse with in person are like this, it is a frustrating affair. It's a fact that most of these people are the same one's who come crawling back when things are on the up-rise. This leaves me with the question of ' what is being a fan?'. This is an actual recognition to those I respect so much, rather than actually asking the question.

As a child, I was raised by my father to cheer for one team and one team only, I was practically constructed to be his third Habs supporter in the family. When I got older and grew an actual opinion on the game. These things really stuck with me and became my moto, so to speak, for this great game. To start my new found love for the game, however, I decided to part ways with my father and become a Leafs fan. A dastardly move considering my entire family tree consists of Habs fans. So, I was deemed the guy to rag on by the family. And this is what made me proud to be a Leafs fan. I endured it all, and this is what made me proud to cheer the Blue and White. The thought of proving them wrong and having superiority is what drove me. This eventually merged into an undoubtable, magnificent feeling of proud, excitement and respect for not only my team, but others who lace the laces of ice. Especially the Habs, who were the main contributor to my Leafs allegiance and ultimately, respect for the game.

So what is the point of that personal story? I believe this is what forms a true fan. Someone who endures the lows and highs all while thinking ahead. To truly appreciate the word ''fan'' we must first respect and learn the game as it was intended.

A sad but magnificent story when it touches your heart, is the story of Elgin Fraser, a child who had the unfortunate misfortune of cancer, but his pride, at a remarkably young age, for his team was apparent and heart warming. Here's a dedication video to the little guy, R.I.P Elgin, you've changed the lives of many and put life in perspective for myself and many other people.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Youtube Video of the Day: Go Dogs Go!

I am showing you this video half because of my recent interview if Ajay Baines, and half to show you how great of a hockey town Hamilton is. Oh... and I was there...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Season Report Card (November)

Team: New York Islanders
Division: Atlantic
Conference: Eastern
Record: 13-8-1 (27 Points)
Home Record: 9-3-1
Away Record: 4-5-0

Team Leaders
Goals: Josef Vasicek (9)
Assists: Mike Comrie (11)
Points: Mike Comrie (18)
+/-: Miroslav Satan (+5)
Penalty Minutes: Andy Sutton (27)

The Good: The Islanders are playing team hockey. From the offense down to the goal, the Islanders are one unit. This aspect was missing last season with the likes of Yashin and Blake in the locker room. The new look Isles have raised their game to a new level and are, as Bill Clement put it, a scary team to play against once again.

The Bad: The offense has died out like the dodo bird. Vasicek leading the team with 9 goals is ridiculous. Guerin, Comrie, Tank, Satan, and Hunter need to put their heads in the game and some pucks in the net.

The Ugly: Andy Hilbert. 1 goal, 1 assist. It took him 20 games before he acquired these points and until tonight, he was still a point behind goaltender Rick DiPietro. With tonight's assist, he is now tied with Ricky.

The Walking Wounded: Jon Sim (Knee, Indefinite), Aaron Johnson (Knee, 6-8 weeks)

Christmas Wish List: 1) Offense. 2) Offense. 3) Offense. 4) Eureka Season 2 on DVD.

Grade: B+ (Good, but Needs Improvement)

Sean Avery Out of Action

Word has come out that Sean Avery underwent wrist surgery today and will be out for at least a couple of weeks. Avery took a shot toff of his wrist from teammate Brendan Shanahan in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and couldn't even shoot the puck during Monday's practice. It was routine arthroscopic surgery to fix some of the nagging problems he's been having. The hockey world will sorely miss the "services" of Mr. Avery for these next few weeks, especially Martin Brodeur, Jason Blake, and Darcy Tucker.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Game, Another Flyer Suspended

TSN reports that Scott Hartnell has received a two game suspension for his hit on Andrew Alberts. There was no real reason why Hartnell should have made the hit, since Alberts was already on his knees at the time of the hit. There is no word yet on Alberts condition, but it is speculated that he'll be alright.

Now I for one think that it was a little much. I agree that the hit should have been reviewed, and that Hartnell did deserve a slap on the wrist, but two games is too much. The five-minute penalty and game misconduct he received was enough. It looked like to me that Hartnell wanted to hurt Alberts because he was already in a vulnerable position when he began the hit, and drove his face into the boards.

Another Flyer to add to the list of suspensions. This can't all be a coincidence, can it? This was also the first meeting of the two teams since the Jones/Bergeron incident. Are the Flyers really going out to hurt the other team? If so, somebody needs to tell them that the Broad Street Bully days are over.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leafs Lose Western Stand-Off : Toskala Shaky

To start, do not think I am pinning this on Vesa Toskala. But after standing up for a goaltender that I believe played very well in front of a inconsistent and downright terrible defense... he was bad. He let in a softy goal against Dallas ( by none other than Mike friggin' Ribeiro) which ultimately, was the GWG. Toskala stops that, and we have a chance. He let us down, plain and simple.

To the game itself, I thought the Leafs played a semi-decent game. Boring and unexciting. Don't really want to talk about it really. So off we went to the Phoenix Coyotes, a 500. hockey club who was 3-0 with Ilya Bryzgalov going into the match. Well, make that 4-0. Because the Leafs were downright abysmal. After Andrew Raycroft was victimized by himself and the D, he was pulled to wake-up the club. One shot later, Vesa Toskala lets a weak one by and it's 3-0. Wow. Before all is lost, the little man who can scores a goal ( Kyle Wellwood) and there is a glimmer of hope. Then the leafs slapped me in the face and lost 5-1. Great stuff.

So apparently, MLSE thinks we don't need changes. They like to keep silent and do absolutely nothing. We are the worst team in the league now. The Capitals have the same amount of wins in one less game. So we are the WORST team in the league. On paper, we are undoubtedly a playoff club but on the ice.......don't get me started.

This won't change by some minor moves either. We need a huge trade or a clean house. I would personally love a clean house but it seems a little unrealistic to me.

So with all that said, let the reign of Leafs ( this word now replaces the word abysmal) play continue.

Au revoir.

Interview with Ajay Baines

Earlier this week I was able to get in touch with Hamilton Bulldogs forward Ajay Baines. Ajay played his junior hockey for the Kamloops Blazers, and broke into the AHL in 2000 playing for the Norfolk Admirals. Ajay played for them for 5 and a half seasons, becoming the franchise's all-time leading scorer. He signed a contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs last season, and helped lead them to the Calder Cup. He is highly revered as a great leader, and was invited to the Montreal Canadiens training camp earlier this year. Unfortunately, he got injured there and that injury has kept him out of action all of this year. Ajay was nice enough to answer a few questions I had for him, and I thank him for donating his time for this interview.

EH: Well Ajay, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to do this. First things first, how is your injury situation coming along?

Ajay: The injury is coming along fine. It's taken a little longer than I would've liked, but I'm not that far away now.

EH: After playing so many years in the AHL without winning the Calder Cup, how sweet was last year for you?

Ajay: Winning the Calder Cup was amazing. I guess it tastes sweeter when it takes you that long to win one!! Ha ha ha. The whole experience was incredible.

EH: Did it mean a lot to you that you scored the game winning goal in the cup-clinching game? (A beauty may I add)

Ajay: Oh man, scoring the goal was a lot of fun. You don't care who scores when you are in that situation, but c'mon, every guy dreams of scoring a goal like that!

EH: You are known around the league as a great leader, what qualities do you think you have that make people think that way?

Ajay: Haha, I don't know man. I don't think I do anything special to help lead. I just try to be myself. And I remember when I was a young guy, I was surrounded by very supportive, yet demanding older players which helped me a lot.

EH: You are also known for being one of the few East Indian hockey players playing professionally, do you feel as if you have to prove yourself to many people?

Ajay: I know there are not too many Indian guys playing hockey. And I don't know the mindset of Mangers and Hockey people out there, but I have been treated great by everyone and never once thought that my race was an issue.

EH: Does the fact that you were never drafted drive you to succeed?

Ajay: The draft was a long time ago, and there are lots of players who were never drafted who are still playing pro hockey now. I don't think about that at all.

EH: You played 4 years in the WHL for the Kamloops Blazers, how did that help your career, and are there any notable people from that time period that especially helped you along the way?

Ajay: Playing for the Blazers was a dream for me. It was my hometown and a great organization. My coach Marc Habscheid really taught me a lot of what it would take to be a pro. Jarome Iginla was a teammate who I learned a lot from even at a young age. He is the most competitive player I've ever played with.

EH: How hard was it to move on when you got traded from Norfolk, a city where you played in for 5 and a half seasons and a franchise in which you are the all-time points leader?

Ajay: Leaving Norfolk was interesting. I have a lot of great memories there and spent a big chunk of my life there. But I asked for the trade as things were not going well in my last year there. And it was a move that I needed, and my career needed.

EH: You wear the number 32, is there any significance behind that?

Ajay: 32 was the number I got in Junior. And I've worn it ever since. Shaquille O'Neal has a part of it too...

EH: Even though you got injured, what was the experience at Montreal Canadiens training camp like?

Ajay: Well last year's camp was great, this year's, I got hurt on the first day. But, an unbelievable organization. From the top to the bottom.

EH: Carey Price obviously played a major role in winning the Calder Cup last season, was there any doubt in your mind that he would make the jump to the NHL this year?

Ajay: Carey Price is the real deal. There was no doubt in my mind.

EH: Who is the funniest player you have ever played with?

Ajay: I've played with some real characters. 2 of them in Norfolk, Nick Kuiper and Matt Keith. And Cory Urquhart here in Hamilton.

EH: Out of all the players you have played against, who was the hardest to keep up with?

Ajay: I think Patrick Marleau in junior. He was so fast and he was only 17. Marian Hossa was a incredible as well.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tavares Will Have to Wait

The Hockey News reports that John Tavares has committed to staying in the OHL next season, playing for the Oshawa Generals. Tavares is only five days short of being draft-eligible in '08, instead he'll have to wait until the 2009 draft.

Tavares raised eyebrows when it was reported that Leafs GM John Fergusen Jr. had contacted him about playing for their AHL team next year, completely bypassing the draft. Not only did I wholeheartedly believe that the situation should never have been discussed, it turned out later that it would have been very difficult for him to get into the league in the first place, since the AHL's commissioner stated that he would not allow it.

It was clear that Tavares explored all options trying to leave the Generals to play somewhere pro next season, but it seems that his search has come to an end. Now we speculate on who will end up with the first overall pick in 2009, I'm sure the Leafs have a great chance now ;)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vesa Toskala Has Been Great, And I'm Sticking To It!

On the verge of a disheartening 4-2 loss to the Bruins, it appears as if Vesa Toskala is now being labelled ''average'' ''fair'' or even ''mediocre''. Give me a freakin' break. Give your head a shake while your at too. The guy has let in two.....TWO....weak goals all season. He's been giving us a chance to win every night and has made huge saves when needed, look at the games vs. Habs specifically. How on earth do you expect him to recover the Leafs defensive gaffes? These aren't your ordinary mistakes either, it's leaving your goaltender helpless and stranded in the crease....or outside of it. The Leafs, admittedly from Pavel Kubina, too often leave one offender in front of the net with no one covering him because the two defense-man chase ONE guy. Yea, and we wonder why we get scored on so much. Not only that, but the Leafs can't get control in their zone; every game they are running in circles in their own zone while the opposition passes the puck around with ease.... it's look like a PP for crying out loud. Also, if the opponents get a rush, our defense-man like to huddle up to the crease and screen our goalies, an effective task for losing games indeed.

To me, all this comes back to the negative, pathetic energy that surrounds this Leafs club. A drop of failure is a bucket full in a matter of seconds. And suddenly, your on the Jose Theodore train.

Give me a break!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Big night at the Bell Centre for the Big Bird

I'm not old enough to remember much of Larry Robinson's playing career, but the stories that I've heard, both from my father and from writers and broadcasters (among others) in Montreal, as well as the videos, pictures, etc, not to mention his coaching career in New Jersey, allow me to recognize that Larry Robinson is one of the greatest defensemen of all time.

Tonight, he gets his honors in Montreal, as after roughly 6:30 EST this evening, no Montreal Canadiens player will ever be allowed to wear his #19 ever again.

A hall of famer, a Conn Smythe winner, a multiple time Norris Trophy winner, and Stanley Cups coming out of the wazoo, both as a player and a coach, Robinson is regarded as one of the best players of all time, and I'd certainly put him in my top 6 defensemen of all time as well.

Ceremonies in Montreal start at 6:30 sharp this evening, where Robinson will be introduced by Lou Lamoriello (an interesting sight, to see Big Lou on the ice at the Bell Centre, it will be). As history has shown, it will certainly be a great ceremony, a fitting tribute, followed by a great match-up in Montreal vs. Ottawa, which takes a back seat tonight.

An important night for the Habs, both on the ice and up on the rafters, and an important game that takes a bit of a back seat.

I'll certainly be glued to my television set (wishing I was at the game... but hey, I got to go on Saturday so why am I complaining?), and hopefully all of you will be to.

Short blog today, but i'll save the tributes to the pros. Meanwhile, here's a tribute to Mr. Robinson courtesy of Youtube and Legends of hockey (sorry for stealing your Youtube bit Egg):

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen...Or Have They?

Well, it took 15 games but the Sabres finally managed to score the first goal in their 4-1 win over the Canadiens last night. The streak was broken by recent Rochester call-up Clarke MacArthur. Buffalo is a completely different team playing with the lead as they force teams to open up, which creates space for the playmakers like Max, Vanek, Connolly, and Roy. The Sabres have played well recently although have not been reciprocated for their efforts. They out shot Ottawa in a 3-2 loss that could have gone either way.

Now that the Sabres have garnered a few goals and a much needed win, I expect that players will stop gripping the stick so tightly and get back to what made them successful. With Connolly expected to return shortly, Buffalo will be receiving a much needed offensive spark. The return could not come at a better time for the Sabres. Their next 3 games will be against NE division opponents and if the squad can manage to string a couple of wins together, it will go along way in getting them back into playoff contention.

The Sabres currently sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, although I do not expect that to continue. Look for the Sabres to make a strong push here and show that they are a team to be reckoned with.

On a side note defenseman Teppo Numminen has began skating. No timeframe has been established for his return...yet.

The Sabres will take on the Ottawa Senators Wednesday Night at HSBC.

Bryzgalov on waivers: Genius or utter stupidity?

So Brian Burke placed his back-up goalie on waivers, after literally years of waiting for Ilya Bryzgalov to be moved in a deal. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is an always has been the #1 goalie in Anaheim, there's no denying that.

But with the move Burke made yesterday involving Bryzgalov, a few questions arise. Firstly, why did it take him so long to do something with Ilya if it was clear he had no future with the team? Secondly, why would he settle with putting Bryzgalov on waivers?

Public acknowledgment seems to be that Burke played Bryzgalov on waivers in order to get him to play as the #1 goalie he "deserves" to be somewhere else in the NHL as soon as possible. Deals were attempted but nothing panned out.

Specifically, Burke told TSN:

"I'm keeping my word to a player here. Ilya Bryzgalov has won three playoff rounds for us and has played very well. But we've committed ourselves to two other goaltenders in Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller. I told him if I couldn't find a place to play, I would put him on waivers. I gave his agent Don Meehan a time frame, and we're keeping our word to a player. As an organization, we find that to be important. He's a good kid, we know he'll get picked up and he'll play well wherever he goes. He's done his part for us over the last two seasons, and it's time we kept our word."

This strikes me as a little odd because I can think of a handful of teams in the NHL in need of a goaltender without even blinking. Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Phoenix and Atlanta, among other teams, could all use a number one goaltender. Add that to the fact that Bryzgalov has performed fairly well in his career and the fact that he has playoff experience and that he's cheap and a deal seems almost sure-fire, as a team such as Pittsburgh would have a better chance at nabbing Bryzgalov through trade as opposed to the waiver wire, where they sit close to the bottom of the pack compared to other teams in need of a goalie.

So that got me to thinking. Is Brian Burke completely and utterly crazy, or just full of B.S.? No way Bryzgalov is untradable. There must be something more to this story. So I compiled a list of possible answers to these questions. Why was Ilya Bryzgalov put on waivers and not traded?

a) Bryz was a cancer in the locker room and Burke and the other players wanted him out as soon as possible;

b) Strictly a cap move... Neidermayer's coming back, cap works on a daily basis, so every day with a few dollars less against the cap counts;

c) Other teams refused to negotiate with Burke because he's a jackass and outed confidential discussions last year after the trade deadline, publicly bashed another GM in Lowe (no matter what you think of the Penner move), and is an all-round hothead;

d) Burke was continuously low-balled on Bryzgalov and didn't want to be made to look like an idiot trading him for nothing when JFJ, for instance, gave up everything but the kitchen sink to get a glorified back-up goalie in Toskala;

e) There's something about Bryzgalov we don't know (this ties in to choice a) which makes him untradeable;

f) Brian Burke is just simply an idiot.

Take your choice, any of these solutions is plausible, but to say you put him on waivers because you wanted him to get some games under his belt... come on Burkie, we're not stupid, and we know you're supposed to tell it like it is. The way this was handled was just fishy.

Leafs Continue Journey... Of Mediocre Play

Well, with all guns blazing and ready for the big Habs game on Tuesday, we came out quite good actually. We out shot Montreal 40-25 and we generated some decent D, decent goaltending and decent offense. Hulk Hogan, otherwise known as Bryan McCabe ( love his handlebars) had something to up his sleeve however. Shortly after overtime began, McCabe, with his head down, passed the puck to Nik Antropov. Actually, scratch that. He passed the puck to Mike Komisarek who got a break-away from his OWN blue-line and scored a 5-hole game-winning goal on Andrew Raycroft... who was out of luck.

So off we go, another tilt with another northeast division rival. The Boston Bruins, the Big Bad Bears, an original six foe. After losing a close game, which the Leafs should of won against the Habs, they will surely show up for a great tilt. Not! We lost 5-2. Raycroft was terrible. Defense was terrible. Offense was terrible. Not ONE forward standed out to me... and that's a scary thought.

These recent events, which have been on-going since the beginning of the season, tell me one thing. We have no character. We can't bounce back after tough losses and we can't get the job done. Win or lose, we're always the same. Mediocre.

I had enough of this, either clean house or just fire JFJ. I don't care, do something, because this is embarrassing and this kind of up and down play will get us no good picks, no playoffs, no nothing.

It has to end.

Rant over.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Brodeur Denied #500... Again

Martin Broduer is now in a mini 3-game slump, keeping him stuck at 499 wins, highlighted by a crushing 1-0 defeat to the Islanders tonight. Kevin Weekes got to play in a game during this streak, which he won. I believe the New Yorkers call this the "A-Rod Curse". He knows that there are significantly more eyes watching this game because of the impending milestone, but is he losing because he's nervous? Absolutely not. Remember, this is the guy who won a gold medal with Team Canada, in arguably the most-watched game in Canada in the past ten years.

He's a future Hall of Famer, and has 3 Stanley Cup rings to his credit. 500 wins is just an icing on the cake that is his career, no need to be worried about it. Marty hasn't even been playing bad during this stretch, a stretch in which his team has only scored 11 goals in 7 games.

Rick Di Pietro was fantastic in the 1-0 win, stopping 26 shots. There was also a good fight between David Clarkson and Tim Jackman which added to an overall exciting game despite the lack of offense. Yes, it is possible to have an exciting 1-0 game!

Marty Brodeur just has to sit back and relax, win #500 will come soon enough, but hurry up already will ya? You're killing my fantasy team!

Killer Kids

In a season so dominated by the hype of stars Gomez and Drury, the other "new" Rangers have given fans a reason to get excited. Rookies Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal have provided a total of 7 goals in this young season. And indeed, the season is young as the Rangers have drawn success from their kids more than from the seasoned vets.

The three rookies all scored in the Rangers 4-2 win over the Devils, the Rangers 3rd straight win and 7th out of their last 8.


Nigel started the season on a roll after getting called up a few games in. He scored three goals in his first four games but slowed down for a while.

Jamie Langenbrunner scored in the first minute of regulation givng the Devils a 1-0 lead.

40 seconds later, Dawes got his chance. Drury stole the puck at the Rangers line and sent it to Dawes who was streaking down the right wing. He entered the zone on a 2 on 1 and moved in quickly on Marty Brodeur. As he approached the crease, he squeezed it between the blocker and pad of the Devils goaltender. The tying marker was Dawes 4th goal this season and would be the last goal of the first period.


Brandon earned a roster spot in training camp and was slated to center the third line. But when things got ugly on the Jagr line, Dubinsky was sent to the top line on a experimental basis. He never came down. Jagr loves playing with him, which is a victory in itself, and feels reponsible to help Brandon in his development. This has given the young center the best possible situation for success now and down the road.

On Wednesday, Dubinsky gave the Rangers their first lead of the game. Jagr had gotten the puck along the right boards and skated to the center of the zone for a wrist shot. Brodeur knocked it down but left the rebound at the top of the crease. Dubinsky pounced on it and banged it past a diving Brodeur. The marker was the second goal of the season and his career. Jagr added a power play wraparound goal in the last minute of the second, his fourth goal of the season.


If Gomez and Drury are big hockey names, Staal is even bigger. The four Staal brothers are Eastern Canada's equivalent of the Sutters, all of them with bright NHL futures. Marc is the only defenseman in the group but may be the most talented. After promising seasons in the OHL, Marc broke through to the big club. And has not dissappointed. His growth in the few weeks he has had with the team has been unbelievable. He has gone from looking like a...well...rookie into looking confident and solid on the ice. He has made great defensive plays and rarely any errors, something that can go unnoticed but is really the most important thing to have in a hockey player (see Malik). The Rangers drafted a great player and he should be the Rangers #1 D-man for years to come.

In the third period, Staal got on the board. Gomez had the puck in the right corner and center to Shanahan in the slot. Shanahan faked the one-timer put let the puck slide past his stick. Staal hesitated after the unexpected move but recovered and made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone. The Devils were still wondering where Shanny's shot had ended up and Staal had room to walk in from the point. He sent a quick wrist shot over the right shoulder of Brodeur and to the top corner of the net. for his first career goal. The accuracy and power of the shot was remarkable but not surprising. After all, he is a Staal.

Last Ditch Effort

The Devils answered at the midway point with another goal from Langenbrunner. He is in his first game back from an injury and celebrated his return with a two goal effort. The Devils rallied around the goal and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Rangers. And then they got their chance.Brian Gionta stole the puck on a Rangers power play and had a clear breakaway on Lundqvist. As soon as Gionta touched the puck, Lundqvist came out of his crease and got in position for the breakaway. Gionta came head on and fired a wrist shot that was wired for the top right corner. Lundqvist threw his glove up and knocked it away, sealing the victory and giving the blueshirts their third win over the Devils this season.

Blue Bites

-Scott Gomez extended his point streak to 7 games. His two helpers tonight gave him 8 on the season.

-Jason Blake told Sam Rosen of MSG Network that he did not hear Sean Avery make any comment about his cancer during a pregame scuffle betweeen the Rangers and Leafs on Saturday night.

-The Rangers had their third 4+ goal game of the season, the other two coming against Florida and Pittsburgh at MSG.

-The Rangers improve their road record to 2-5-1 and overall are 10-7-1 with 21 points. They are currently 1 point behind the Flyers for 1st in the Atlantic Division

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Youtube Video of the Day: McCabe at his Best

In honour of last nights' beautiful pass to win the game, here's a reminder of one of his many earlier gaffes, like you need it:

Monday, November 12, 2007

GAS Line + 4th Line + Henrik = Red Hot Rangers

First nine: 2-5-1. Last nine: 7-2-0.

That tells the story of the turnaround the Rangers have made in this young season. That proves that the early hiccups that this team experienced were nothing more than growing pains. That when the right line combinations are found and the players learn to play with each other, it will create success. That when the team defense is consistanly excellent, and even when it is not, there is a world class goaltender to clean up after the mistakes, this team will win games. A lot of games.

There are many notable issues to discuss about the recent success of the Rangers and I will point out a few that stood out in my mind.

The Gomez-Avery-Shanahan (the GAS line, spread the word) has had the most offensive success of any line this season. Obviously, Gomez is coming into his game and is figuring out how to play in a new system. His speed brings a whole new dimension to the game. When I see him touch the puck, I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat, even if he only has it in the defensive end. He has made beautiful passes and is even scoring goals (4) much to the surprise of the Devils fans. Avery is still being Avery by adding a distraction as well as an underrated scoring threat. He is prone to pick up Gordie Howe Hat Tricks. And Shanahan can play his game, glide around to some open ice and expect a perfect feed from one of his linemates. It also helps that the Jagr line draws the top defensmen, even though two of the forwards, Dubinsky and Hossa, are far from elite. All this has translated into great offensive production from this line.

The fourth line of Orr-Betts-Hollweg who I so willingly and rightfully ripped this summer, calling them "useless" among other things, has really become a shutdown defensive line. They still dont score, mind you, but they have been matched up against the top opposing line for the past few games. I do not remember a goal scored while that line was on the ice yet they have faced quality lines. The team defense system preached by Tom Renney is really represented in this group which, a year ago consisted of a fighter, a hitter and a PK/ shot blocking specialist. Now they play their roles to perfection and allow the offensive lines to have more favorable matchups.

What can you say about Henrik Lundqvist. The guy kept the Rangers in it early and boosted them ahead as of late. In his third year, he is playing even better than he did in his two Vezina finalist season. He is really playing awesome hockey and deserves all of the praise that hes been receiving. It seems impossible to score against him and goals against are rarely his fault. The Rangers really have a gem and better sign him before he gets too expensive because he is a guy who should be a career Ranger. As for this season, if he can keep up the pace, he should clinch another Vezina final and perhaps even win the award. If you want one goaltender in net in the postseason, it is no doubt Henrik Lundqvist.

The next game is Wednesday at the Prudential Center when the Rangers face-off against the struggling Devils in game 2 of a crucial 4 game road trip.

For now,

The Week That Was And Preparing For An Old Foe

Well, after stating that this week would be crucial for the Leafs. They came out... exactly the same. They started 6-6-3 and ended 7-7-4. But this can be viewed as a positive for this inconsistent and mediocre club. After being destroyed by the Sens 5-1 they rallied back with a 3-0 win over the struggling Sabres ( it'll turn around, Max) and salvaged a point against the surging Rangers and one by the name of Sean Avery, we'll get to him later. Let's re-cap the recent turn of events in Leaf-land shall we?

The week began with an important match-up against the Sens, one that would potentially turn this Leafs club around. But what skated the ice... is a different story. A few players were ready, specifically Vesa Toskala, who tried his best to cover up the massive mistakes from the Leafs D. In the end, he just couldn't do it. These mistakes aren't your ordinary gaffes... these are mistakes that the goaltender would have to pull a Jesus-like save from his hat...which is not happening, by any goaltender. Jada, Jada, Jada, score here, score there and we got a 5-1 score for the Sens.

On we go to the Buffalo Sabres, a club that I thought would ignite against their divisional foes and turn their club around, who I still believe, will do so! To the Sabres credit, they played solid. The offense was generating shots but, very surprisingly, our D was good. And Raycroft took advantage by getting the goose egg. A great accomplishment with our D, truly a rare feat. So things were turning around, one team left for the week that was and it ended with the New York Rangers and thug-boy Sean Avery.

Hockey Night in Canada, Saturday night, game against an original six foe. Doesn't get much better right? Well apparently Sean Avery thought it could, and he started by trolling Darcy Tucker and then Jason Blake who came to his defense. Classy move, Avery... you are not surprisingly taking this to far. I await the day you get clocked and pay for your tom-foolery. Excuse my un-classiness, I suppose. The game was a good one, the Rangers showed up, and so did the Leafs. Our D helped Toskala who played a solid game but unfortunately for us... the game went to a shootout. Yup, the shootout. A skills competition that our club can't handle it seems. Our forwards have a tough time scoring, really tough actually, and our goaltenders can't seem to make the save ( Toskala looks horrible in the shootout, maybe his height is in play?) . So we lose 3-2 but garner a point for our efforts and move on to a new week. One that begins with the Montreal Canadiens.

It will be a Tuesday night battle. Leafs vs. Habs. Original-Six showdown with two teams who create the one of the biggest and best in sports today. But this time, a twist! Carey Price will face the Buds rubber rather than Cristobal Huet, a goaltender who clearly struggles against the Blue and White. Although I'd love to see Justin Pogge in the cage facing future superstar Carey Price, we'll see either Toskala or Raycroft. And my guess is Raycroft after a spectacular start against the Sabres. But something to keep in mind is that Toskala has stolen the W for us both times with the Habs so the better choice, IMHO, is Toskala. We'll have to wait and see.

All this and more in the next installment of... Toronto Maple Leafs Mediocricy, starring JFJ and MLSE!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kubina's Injury More Costly Than Expected

Greetings, long time no see folks, but I'm back, kind of and I'm not wasting time.

Kubina's injury is going to cost the Leafs a lot more than anybody is going to expect. To begin with, our 5 million dollar a year number 2 is down. That's the obvious part. He's not my favorite player, and I'd actually like to see him traded but that's not because he's Aki Berg-like, it's because we already have a guy exactly like him in McCabe which I will get to shortly. Kubina is an offensive defenseman, there is no hiding that, however, this season Kubina has proven he's a little more reliable defensively than most once thought. With the Buffalo disaster aside, which by the McCabe took the brunt if not all of the blame for, wrongfully I might add, Kubina has been a pretty steady guy back there with Kaberle at his side. Kubina leads all Toronto defensemen, physically speaking, with 28 hits. He also leads the team in blocked shots with 39. Kubina's giveaway to takeaway ratio is also 11:9. I expect the PK to take a hit. And I didn't think it was possible. I hate to be repetitious, but, Peca would have been really nice to have right about now, that's for sure.

Now, back to McCabe. With Kubina out of the lineup, we all know what that means. McCabe is going to take all of Kubina's ice time and be reunite with Kaberle in almost every scenario. I know Leaf fans, but hold your collective groans because this also means our good friend Anton Stralman will make his return to the lineup. I expect McCabe to do better than his worst critic expects but significantly worse than his greatest fan. As always, I expect him to land right in the middle which is quite typical on a team that has been the model of mediocrity for the last 40 years. McCabe is surprisingly only 4th on the team in giveaways with Kaberle leading the team in giveaways with 20 and having only 4 take aways to counter it with. My theory on this is that Kaberle has been playing with Kubina, a right handed shot, and has been forced to throw pucks closer to the middle on the break out. It's a pretty weak theory, but we'll see how things go with McCabe. McCabe also has 22 blocked shots, only 17 fewer than Kubina in 7 fewer games.

Personally, if I was the coach of this team, I think I would try and pair Stralman with Kaberle, McCabe with White, while alternating McCabe and Stralman, and Gill with Wozniewski. Stralman may be a rookie, but I've got a feeling about him. He has 3 giveaways in 7 games, not bad for a rookie, but at the same time, has 4 take aways which I believe is very good. I think a mistake Maurice might make with McCabe is overplaying him and going back to 3 years ago when McCabe was playing 30 minutes a game, rivaling Pronger and Lidstrom a top the league. McCabe can't be on the ice for that long. He takes things upon himself and it could see him add to his giveaway totals.

As you all know, I'm a believer of blowing this team up and letting guys like our friend Stralman play meaningful minutes at the NHL level, however, considering that isn't in the cards for certain people who are looking for extensions, or profits, the very least one can hope for is that guys like Stralman get to play a little bit more and guys like McCabe can play a little bit less because not only does it helps them both out tremendously but ultimately the team, now, and moving forward.

Also, one last thing, Colaiacovo has been reported to have skated for 7 straight days without pain. No timetable has been set yet, but hopefully, he can replace Wozniewski as quickly as possible and start dishing out some pain to some of our friends.

Until next time, don't give MLSE your money. It's not worth it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"I've got it!! We'll play the games *wait for it*... ON TV!!

Well, it took over 70 years, but the Chicago Blackhawks finally got out from under their rocks and asked what the big fuss was about about that square thing that displays pictures and sounds... what do you call it again?

This week, Comcast SportsNet announced that they will air 7 Hawks home games, starting with the inter-divisional game versus the Detroit Red Wings this Sunday.

Despite this being a step in the right direction for the Blackhawks and for the fans in Chicago, I can't help but wonder a couple things:

1) What the Hell took the Blackhawks so long? I know their owner was in the later years of his life, and may he rest in piece, but surely he must've been alive when T.V. hit the market.

2) Seven games? Last I checked this isn't the original 6 anymore... every team gets to play 41 games in their arena. What are the Hawks afraid of in broadcasting the 34 other games?

But what's even more mind-boggling than the absurdity of the situation is the article in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

Apparently this Windy City reporter must've known known of this revolutionary invention either, because he makes it sound like none of the following things existed before the Hawks decided to air home games:

"Comcast SportsNet announced its coverage plans on Wednesday, and they'll be much different than what viewers have seen on the station during its coverage of road games, Jim Blaney and Steve Konroyd traditionally do their pre- and postgame shows from a studio. This time they'll do them live from the United Center.

Josh Mora will give live reports from between the benches during the game as well as some pregame player interviews from the same location. Kerry Sayers will interview celebrities in attendance throughout the telecast, and Hawks' assistant coach Ryan Stewart will communicate with the broadcast team throughout the game. A to-be-determined Hawks' player will also wear a wireless microphone throughout the game.

Comcast's intermission interview with a Hawks' player will air simultaneously on the United Center's Jumbotron for the first time, and the national anthem and pregame video introduction as well coach Denis Savard's postgame news conference will also be included in the broadcast package. The goal is to give viewers the full flavor of what it's like to attend a Hawks' home game."'

Apparently either:

a) whatever teams the Hawks are playing on the road haven't broadcast a game since the Korean War, or;

b) no one watches Chicago road games anyway (the latter part seems more believable).

All this stuff sounds pretty special, no doubt, but the author makes it sound like none of these things have ever happened in hockey broadcasting before. It's actually quite amusing. It's a treat for Hawks fans after having gone so long without home games televised, but the fact that it took the death of the owner (and I mean no offense to anyone in saying that) for Hawks management to wake up is a little pitiful. Rocky Wirtz and the Hawks took a step in the right direction this week, but they still have a long way to go.

Enjoy the game Hawks fans! It'll be... revolutionary!

Ailing Sabres Come Away with Win!

The Buffalo Sabres were fortunate to walk out of HSBC Arena with a victory last night because for the majority of the game they played uninspired hockey. The Sabes were without star play maker Tim Connolly and gritty forward Adam Mair. The absences were apparent last night as the PP lacked puck possession and scoring chances, something that Connolly can provide in a flash. Buffalo earned the two points with a 2-1 OT victory over the division rival Boston Bruins last night, compliments of recent Rochester call up Clarke MacArthur. MacArthur buried home a pass from Drew Stafford 3:16 into the extra frame. You have to commend Lindy for giving his young guys a shot in crucial situations. MacArthur has been great in Rochester this season and hopefully he can provide a much needed spark and help this team turn things around and get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Without a doubt the best Sabre on the ice yesterday was Paul Gaustad. He was determined to walk out with two points and let his game speak for itself. Paul was instrumental on shutting down the B's PP and creating havoc for Chara and the other Bruin defenders. If you are unsure as to whom the captain should be, look no further than "Goose". The fans know it, let's just hope the coaches take notice and make it happen. Lydman and Hecht are solid players, yet lack the ability to speak up and get the most out of each individual player. Plain and simple, Paul will do whatever it takes to win.

Ryan Miller was good in goal tonight earning his fifth win of the season by turning away 25 shots. Due to the Sabres adopting a 1-3-1 system scoring chances were kept to a minimal and while it did not make for the most entertaining game, they came away with the points so I expect to see more of this moving forward.

The Sabres will look to continue their success on Friday night when they face their rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs. Expect the building to be rocking, especially considering that both teams need these points desperately. It will be interesting to see how the Leafs bounce back from the performance against Ottawa the other night. I expect an inspired effort from the Leafs and it will take everything Buffalo has in the tank to earn another victory. It is unknown if Spacek, Pratt, and Connolly will be available for the game. Mair will be out so you can expect to see Clarke MacArthur again for Buffalo. Should be a great game, get your popcorn ready!

Leafs Lose To Sens, Look Ahead For Hope

After the Leafs looked to start off the week with a bang... they did just the opposite. The defense was sloppy and once again, did not care for goaltender Vesa Toskala. The offense was also lackluster and Toronto did not generate much in terms of anything really. Give Ottawa two points and leave ScotiaBank Place... job well done, boys.

Up next, the Buffalo Sabres. A inner-division rival club who has our number in the recent years, but with the Sabres struggling does this put an end to era that was? Or will the Sabres lay waste of the Buds and use them to break-out of their slump? Well, one thing to definitely count on is Andrew Raycroft starting after Vesa started 9 games in a row. And if memory serves correctly, the Sabres love to play Raycroft....yikes.

Next on the list is original six foe, New York Rangers. Keywords: Lundqvist, two shutouts in a row, Avery, Jagr, Rangers comeback. Watch out, Leafs. The Rangers are indeed a top conference team and they'll be looking to get back up there, the Leafs will have to be on their A-game and playing two nights in a row should help that...seeing on how we need a jump start to actually play a solid game.

So far, the Leafs are losing the games that ultimately led them to their demise last season....lose important games and miss the playoffs by a couple of points. If they want to attain that feat, then smarten the F up and start backing your goaltender Toskala, because he is playing very solid. Frankly, I'm extremely tired of seeing Vesa get ripped apart by laughable defense and lackluster effort by his teammates.

With all this said, I'm gonna try to stay as positive as possible this upcoming weekend, two teams, one on the up rise and one on the verge of breaking-out... play your cards rights, boys.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lindros to Retire, Is He a HOFer?

Eric Lindros is set to announce his retirement Thursday, which has raised the question of whether or not he is good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. The debate has become heated, with pro-Lindros vouchers claiming that his stats are better than Cam Neely's, who is in the Hall of Fame. I hope he doesn't get in for one main reason, respect. I have very little respect for Mr. Lindros, and I believe that people in the Hall of Fame should be the most revered and respected in the game of hockey. Eric Lindros doesn't fit the bill.

Eric Lindros was a great player in his prime, and did some good work for the players' association, but is that really enough to get him into the hall? It's not just the way he treated the people of Quebec, it's mainly about the image for me. If Lindros was a model captain and a well respected player, that may have put him over the top like it did with Neely, but he wasn't. He was great in his time, but did nothing else to help the way people viewed him. Image is a key factor in getting into the hall of fame, and it's not a factor that bodes well for him.

Does he deserve to become a HOFer? No way. Will he become one? That's another story. If I was in charge you know what the answer would be, but unfortunately I'm not, so don't rule it out. For the integrity of the Hall of Fame I hope they do not allow Eric Lindros to become a member, they should instead induct a deserving non-member such as Pavel Bure, or Glenn Anderson. It will be an interesting situation when it comes around, but we don't have to worry about it for a few years, so lets just let it go for now...

Youtube Video of the Day: Stevens Tribute

Here is my form of a tribute to probably the greatest hitter of our lifetime. It's a shame to see him retire (ironically from complications of concussions), but he's already been voted into the hall of fame, giving him the respect he deserves. Great at delivering a shoulder to the head cleanly, which is a tough skill to master. Now lets all enjoy some of his work:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Leafs Lose Big Time to Sens, but Need to Look on the Bright Side

The Ottawa Senators are a very good team, there's no doubt about that at all, but the Leafs and their fans should not hang their heads low. The reality is that these are the types of teams that they have to beat in order to go anywhere at playoff time. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't your average Leaf-hate blog, I have absolutely no issue with them. As a third party, this is just my opinion of them.

They have talent and promise, but they certainly aren't reaping the benefits of it. A 5-1 loss to a great team is nothing to be proud of, or to be overly upset about. They got beat quite easily, which was expected (admit it Leafers, it really was), this just sets the bar, giving them something to strive for.

The Leafs should not look on the bad points of this game, they are clearly a less talented team than the Senators, but they should instead look at what they did good, because in order for them to beat them they need to single out what they did good, and exploit it. Whether it's out hustling, or just finding a set play which plays to their advantage, that's for the Leafs coaching staff to figure out.

It is not impossible for the Maple Leafs to beat the Senators, although after tonights' game it sure looks that way. They need to realize that, and they shouldn't hang their heads low. They did what they were expected to do, and that was lose to them. the really good teams bounce back from this, and not only learn from their mistakes, but they take the good points out of the game, and use it next time! That's the beauty of early season games, there's plenty of time to improve.

I believe that a quote from the great philosopher Confucius sums this loss up extremely well, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." The Leafs shouldn't hang their heads because they failed, they just need to get a new game plan and keep on trying, because nobody will ever remember losing to the Senators in an early regular season game, they will remember winning the big game, and that is ultimately the Stanley Cup. I truly hope they take my advice, so I can stop hearing their whining...