Game 36 - Leafs defeat Panthers 2-1 in OT

Steve says:

Nice Christmas gift from the buds! Thanks boys. It was all we could ask for. Some more spectacular goaltending. Some good looking PP and PK. Some good forechecking. And even some good old hard skating (and not just by Blake for a change).

So now we have a couple of days to eat lots of food, drink rum and nog until we cant keep our eyes open, play street hockey well into the night (thanks to a glow in the dark hockey ball!) and open overpriced gifts and stockings filled with socks and chocolate....sounds great right?

It gets better...

Here's a little gift for you to think about while you are all nestled warm in your PJ's.

In our conference, only 2 teams have a better record over their last 10 games...Ottawa (7-1-2) and Buffalo (7-3-0).

The Leafs have the 3rd best "last 10" in our conference heading into the X-mas break (6-3-1).

Also, even in our losses, we have been right in those games. We haven't looked too bad...so some bounces go our way and we play the full 60 minutes, and I bet the New Year will be a bright one for all of us.

Merry Christmas and I'll be back after the Boxing Day game.

GO LEAFS GO!!!!!!!!


The Return of Chris...and moving on

Steve says:

Holy Mackinaw!!!
Chris has returned...now we can have that uplifting pro-Leaf spirit back again...oh...wait...never mind...

moving on...

looking at tonight's games...it would be good if the following teams in yellow could help out the struggling buds by winning...

Sabres over Flyers (this doesn't really "help" us per se, but it keeps us in the race)
Iles over Pens
Av's over Rangers
Oilers over Devils

The other games going on don't really have any bearing...these wins don't move us up at all...but they keep the race close...as bad as we are doing, we are still only 5 points out of 4th place....so we need to minimize the number of games in hand for the other teams...

Chris says:

If you have so much faith in our team why do you spend so much time crunching the numbers to see how other games affect us?

That's a man who doesn't believe the Leafs can do it on their own.

Steve says:

Actually...it's just the sign of a guy who is working for the Gov't and bored out of his mind...
I fully believe that if the players on this team all sat down and said "OK boys, we've had our fun...time to go out there kick some ass" that we could take many of the teams in the NHL...
but instead they are getting wrapped up in the small details and are believing that they are not as good as they are...
bad vibes are running through our team....

Game 35 - Leafs lose again...2-1

Game 35: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Wins 2 -1

Steve says:

I didn't catch the game cuz I was out with my son playing hockey...trying to teach him the one-timer. I figured "this game is in the bag". We have been kicking TB's butt lately, and Toskala has been spectacular, we've lost a couple so we'll be hungry for a win again, AND TB has put in a backup rookie goalie from the AHL.

No way we could lose right?

well...wrong...and it is all the fault of 2 things...

1. why do we not have guys camped in front of the net waiting for Jason Blake's multiple rebounds?
2. composite sticks....when will players learn that the benefits of having a slightly lighter stick do not outweigh the negatives of broken sticks leading to turnovers, and in this case, a game winning goal for the other team...

At least my boy got better with the one-timer...I can't wait for his game on Sunday.

this rookie backup from the AHL just schooled our #1 line!

Chris says:

I'm back! Did you miss me?

Yah well, screw you too.

When I last posted on Hockey Talk the Leafs were slowly spinning towards playoff elimination as third period collapes and a porous defence had combined to sap the will of even the most diehard fan.

It's nice to see how some things never change.

There's precious little that's really positive to say about the Leafs these days. McCabe is gone for 6-8 weeks and, depending on how charitable you're feeling, that little development can be viewed in a lot of ways. My two cents? You can't trade him unless he's out on the ice daily and nightly and ever so rightly, proving his "worth".

But that's just sour grapes from a guy who's afraid his team is going to be on the outs once playoff season rolls around again.

A quick analysis. Our O is what it is. Most nights they're good enough to pot a least a couple goals in the other team's net. Out backstopper? Not quite top shelf, but definetly a cut above what we icing at the same time last year. Our D. Nonexistent.

They're older, slower and less skilled than our opponents. Without a significant upgrade on our blue line you might as well just stick a fork in us, we're done.


looking at tonight

Steve says:

Well...the Islanders didn't hold up their end of the deal and the Sabres beat them and thus took over the 7th spot in the Eastern conference, knocking us down to 9th...again. Isn't it funny how, when faced with the opportunity to advance themselves into a playoff position, other teams not only do NOT choke, but rather they excel! Must be nice.

Hopefully our guys can take a lesson from the Sabres and come out with the guns blazing tonight and the wagons circled around the net. I expect Raycroft to get the start tonight. Toskala needs a break from the awful Defence we have been providing.

Here are my hopes for tonights winners:

Toronto - Tampa
Boston - Pittsburgh
Washington - Montreal
Atlanta - Ottawa
Carolina - Florida
Minnisota - NY Rangers

If all things go according to plan we will be back in the race at 7th place after tonight...

Go Leafs!


A new Hockey League?

Steve says:

A Russian tycoon has hired former NHLPA head Bob Goodenow to help start a new pro league in Europe that would compete for players with the NHL. This means that we might start losing European players to this new league. Currently, top teams in Europe frequently lose players under contract to the NHL. In exchange, they get just $200,000 (U.S.) per player. The Europeans don't feel like that is enough and it seems as though they might be banding together to keep their precious hockey skills homeside.

What will Kulemin do? Will Ovechkin go home?


Tuesdays Games

Steve says:

Here's who needs to win (in yellow) on Tuesday night:

Leafs vs Canes
Sens vs Bruins
Penguins vs Rangers
Coyotes vs Flyers
Thrashers vs Lightning
Panthers vs Habs
Canucks vs Devils

If all of this happens, then the standing will look like:

1 - Sens
2 - Devils
3 - Canes
4 - Bruins
5 - Habs
6 - Penguins
7 - Leafs
8 - Flyers
9 - Rangers
10 - Panthers
11 - Sabres
12 - Islanders
13 - Thrashers
14 - Lightning
15 - Caps

That would put us 1 point out of 5th and only 3 points out of 4th!

Not bad for a team that got off to such a rocky start.

Go Leafs Go!

Wings beat Caps..yay!

watching some more

Steve says:

I am still keeping an eye ion the progress of the other teams even though we have yet to reach the halfway mark. Some people may think that this is nuts to watching the numbers so early. But to you people (you know who you are) I say that this is when the Leafs really lost last season. Yes we had a great run at the end to almost make it, but it was these games last year that caused us to have to play so hard at the end. SO I look at these games as being just as important as the last few...

so, last nights good news is that the Devils and Coyotes won their games. That keeps us right in the race with the other teams around us losing some game in hand.

Tonight there is only 1 game of any consequence to us, and it is minor actually...and that is to have Detroit beat Washington.
that will keep the caps down at the bottom which could help us in a few ways...not only in standings, but eventually the Caps ownership has got to make some deals to get things going for them. Hopefully when they do get to that point, the Leafs will have a GM in place that could work a deal to land us Ovechkin or Semin. I think we have a few more years left in Sundins tank and getting a guy like Ovechkin (a long shot I know) could be really sweet. Ovechkin has stated before that he would like to be a Leaf at some point. Hopefully he gets the chance.

ps. McCabe may need surgery to fix his wrist. Normally when something like this happens, the fans get all mad at whoever did it to our player....but I watched the replay a few times and it was a clean hit..McCabe just went into the boards weird...


Game 33 - Habs roll over Leafs...again

Steve says:

Wow...we looked awful out there...so many defensive breakdowns...on the Koivu goal, both our defencemen were standing still in the high slot! He just walked out from the corner and deked Toskala for an easy goal.

It was painful to watch after they have been playing so well.

Speaking of painful,...McCabe went down hard in the third with a broken hand (broken in 3 places!) so he'll be gone for about 6-8 weeks. That could be the difference on our defence and could be the difference in our season ....of course, this is McCabe...so maybe somehow this will actually turn out as a benefit for us...

From last night, 5 of the teams we needed to win did,(Yotes, Canes, Penguins, Wings, and Sens) but the most important of all those wins did not happen. That puts us back in 9th again. Points wise we are tioed with the Penguins, but they have a game in hand. We are 1 point out of 6th place...

So tonight we need a few things to happen:
Devils over the Flyers
Yotes over the Rangers
Blackhawks over the Panthers

That will keep everybody close and help us out with those games in hand...

and hopefully the boys can regroup around that loss in Montreal....

Game 32 - Leafs beat Thrashers

Steve says:

It all happened so fast......4-0 Leafs win...
was a great game...they did not look tired from the rest of a few days off...


a quick look at tonight

Steve says:

I'm on my way to coach my sons game...so here is a quick look at who we need to win to night to best fit the Leafs needs...

Leafs (obviously)
Black Hawks
Sens (eewww...2 games in a row we need them to win...at least they are helping us with the dirty work...)

If this all happens...we could end up in 6th place after tonight...

Go Leafs!


from last night...to tonight

Steve says:

Some good things happened for the Leafs:
Sens beat the Penguins
Devils beat the Bruins
Flames beat Tampa

but, with the good comes the bad

habs beat flyers
isles beat yotes

So after all the dust has settled, Toronto gets bumped down to 10th place.
The good way to spin this is that we are now in a 3 way tie for points with Pittsburgh and NYIslanders. Pittsburgh has played the same number of games as us, and the Islanders only have 1 game in hand.
The Habs, Rangers, Bruins, and Devils have all also played the same number of games...so we can really see where we sit right now...which is out of a playoff spot.

That means that our future is really in our own hands now. Hopefully we fans will not be left on the edge of our seats hoping for some other team to win in order to decide our playoff fate this year.

Of the games happening tonight, here is who I hope wins...

Caps over Sabres
Flames over Canes
Leafs over Thrashers (duh)

Go Leafs Go!


watching the race

Steve says:

I am keeping a close eye on the other teams in our division while we are waiting to play. They are all finally (or have already) catching up to us in terms of games played. Now after tonight we shall see where we sit in terms of points.
Here are tonight's games and my hopes for the winner in bold. In brackets are the # of games played and their points AFTER tonight's games if they go according to my hopes. All of my "predictions" are based on a regulation win...I'll let you waste your time calculating all the possibilities of the OT win extra points...

Ottawa (30/43) vs Pittsburgh (31/32)
Devils (31/32) vs Bruins (31/32)
Flyers (29/36) vs Habs (31/33)
Tampa (32/31) vs Flames (no affect on our conference)
Islanders (30/30) vs Coyotes (no affect on our conference)

I know it is weird to cheering for other teams to win (esp the Sens...eeeeyuch!...actually I cant say that I don't want the Pens to beat the snot out of the Sens...even if it means our job is harder down the road) but what this does is puts the Leafs in a position to be able to jump over the Pens, Bruins, and Habs as well as increase our lead over Tampa and NYI.



Steve says:
To maintain our #9 position in the Eastern conference while we are waiting to play, we need a few things to happen tonight.

We need Buffalo to beat the Islanders (preferabbly in regulation) ...that will hold off New York until we can play on Friday and hopefully extend our lead above them.

The other game that is happening tonight poses a bigger problem for us. Atlanta vs. Boston.

If Atlanta wins, they will have 31 points and a game in hand still which makes it very close for us.

BUT if Boston wins, it holds Atlanta a few points behind us, but extends Boston's lead above us.

Both outcomes present good and bad points...

such is the parity in the NHL..


Road Trip!

Steve says:

With that sweet home win, the boys in blue get themselves ready to hit the road on a 7 game road trip. They will not be back at the ACC until Sat. Dec. 29th vs. Rangers (Avery vs. Belak anyone?).

Anyway, here are the teams we are playing on the road, their last 10 game record and their position in relation to us in the standings:

Thrashers 5-4-1 below us
Canadiens 3-6-1 above us*
Hurricanes 4-6-0 above us
Lightning 3-6-1 below us
Panthers 6-4-0 below us
Islanders 3-5-2 below us
Flyers 4-4-2 above us*
(* equal in points, but they have games in hand)

So it looks like we have a good chance of not only winning some more games on the road, but with the race being so close (only 7pts separate us from 1st in the East!) we could really put ourselves in a good position heading into the 2nd half of the season.

Also, with the issues that teams like the Sens have been having lately, and the schedule they have in front of them, there is a chance of a few losses which would be great for the Leafs.

All of theses games are "4 point" games meaning that if we win in regulation, not only do we get 2 points, but we keep the other team, who happens to be in our conference race, from getting 2 points.

Hope we can keep up the winning ways.

As an aside, there is talk of the Leafs talking trade with San Jose...Marleau for Kaberle?...personally I think we should stick with the happy group we have for now...I think adding Marleau would only add to our offense..which isn't really an issue..it's the D we need to secure going forward.


Game 31 - Leafs extinguish Lightning 6-1

Steve says:

woo hoo...that was a "shitkickin" to quote the coach of Tampa Bay. Great play all around. Even the PP was looking good. Blake with a sweet tip in. Toskala gets an assist. Even Wozniewski made a pretty sweet pass.

I will say that when this team is clickin, they really click! Nice to see them rebound off a loss with a commanding effort on home ice before a 7 game road trip.

Now we get to the real serious section of the season. We are in the meat and potatoes part of the season. we need to get our record over .500...preferably 5 games over .500. That would put us on pace to be 10 over .500 by the end of the season and that would put us in good position for a playoff spot. These are the games that matter most. We've had some time to make some mistakes and learn how to play as a team. Our PP still needs some love, but it is starting to look better. We are finally combining shots with the patient passing and it is getting results.

Our D is collapsing nicely and we have really eliminated the 2-1 rushes that killed us so many times at the top of the season.

And of course, Toskala has been playing the kind of solid goal tending I always knew he was capable of. This is the kind of consistent positional play I was waiting for. He is very aggressive in challenging the shooter which can lead to rebounds, but 2 great things have been happening as of late. Firstly, he is standing up more and not allowing himself to be baited out of position. Secondly, the D has become much better at clearing the rebounds out to the forwards who are collapsing down more to get the puck out of our zone.

All positive things that they hopefully will continue to execute over the next 2 weeks on the road.

Go Leafs Go!

ps. The Leafs management are cleaning some cap space by putting Battaglia on waivers today. I wonder if this means a trade is coming up...I hope JFJ doesn't do anything stupid.

Game 30 - Boston wins 2-1

Steve says:

I went to this game since I was visiting friends in Toronto. Chris however wussed out after pulling an old-man stunt during his afternoon knitting session. No worries, I went anyway...and got a ticket for $50....all those people who think it is impossible to get Leafs tickets have probably never tried.

As for the game, it was pretty boring to watch...the trap Boston played pretty much killed the Leafs multiple attempts to carry across the blue...which is what was pissing me off...why could PM not see the 1-4 trap and tell the guys to go back to the dump and chase?

Also, any time White or Woz touched the puck, it usually ended up as a turnover...I mean there were some seriously bad passes out of our zone....

The Leaf goal was lucky by Blake...caught Auld daydreaming I think...the first Bruin goal was lucky..same thing..Toskala dreaming about something...the 2nd Bruin goal was a nice screen job and slapshot...

I think that, as boring as this game was, if the Leafs had decided to take more shots on goal, they could have pulled off a win...instead they tried to make the perfect pass...but it usually ended up on a Bruin stick...

I cant wait for the next game I go to at the ACC...I'll need to make sure Chris isn't at his bridge club meeting...


Game 29 - Holy Antropov! another win! 6-2 vs. Rangers

Steve says:

Wooooooo Hooooooo!
Now this is what I am talking about! solid Defensive hockey (except for the Rangers 1st goal...we looked like old Leafs on that one) and some creative and aggressive offense is gonna take us far.

I would have liked to see a higher SOG number, but as long as they are going in the back of the net, I can't really complain.

Toskala is really doing it for us. Yes Antropov got a hat trick, but it is the extra confidence that the guys seem to have that Toskala can pull off a few big time stops in a game to keep us in it.

I love that at one point during the game, they showed Sean Avery checking his blackberry...you know a team is getting whooped when the players start checking email during the game!

Good on ya boys!

I'm heading down the 401 to Toronto tonight to see some family and friends...Chris and I are gonna get together to try to get some cheap scalper seats at the ACC for Sat. Hope we get to see win #5 against the Bruins...the key to that one is to get at the goalies fast and early to shake them all up...and use Blake's speed to get around Chara.


pregame brain emmisions

Steve says:

well....now that we have achieved the elusive 3-game win streak it will be very interesting to see how we come out tonight. It seems like each time we get players back from injury and insert them back into the lineup, we fall apart (ie. Mark Bell and the Sens game where we got whooped). So with Kubina coming back in, and Tlusty and Kronwall being sent down to the Marlies, tonight's game should be a sign of how well the core of our group is doing.

Belak will be playing , but not to take out the Ranger tough guy Sean Avery...Avery is out with wrist surgery.

Sean broke up with Elisha Cuthbert a while back...and now his wrists need surgery...I wonder if there is any correlation between the two ...?


Game 28 - Another win ! 3-1 vs Preds

Steve says:

Can you beleaf it? Vesa Toskala steals a game for us...we finally have a goalie who can steal a game or two for us. We haven't had that since Belfour or Cujo. The Leafs got a lot of lucky bounces and some stellar goaltending which is nice for a change.

Not only that but some 2nd line and 4th line scoring didn't hurt either. Way to go Wade.

I would have liked to see some stronger D overall. I thought that Nashville spent a lot of time in our zone. Even if we just ice it, we gotta find a way to get that puck out of our zone when the pressure is on. Vesa wont be able to steal every game for us.

Mathematically, we are only 7 points behind Ottawa for first place in the Eastern conference. The sens have a few games in hand, but it is just that close...the sens lose a few, we win a few, and it's a whole new ballgame.

good job boys...Go Leafs Go!

ps. The sens have now lost 7 in a row....not sine 1997 has that happened....there are a lot of broken ankles from all the people jumping off the bandwagon...just as I predicted


Game 27 - Leafs win...AGAIN! 4-2

Steve says:

A 2 game winning streak !!!
Now that was a great game...total domination for most of the game. A slight breakdown in the 3rd made me a bit nervous, but they managed to pull it off. Very good job boys!

The aggressive fore check and the blanket coverage on Crosby (nice kick Vesa!) had our boys looking in fine form...and watching Roberts go into a hissy fit was pretty funny as well...

After the loss to the Habs, Vesa said something to the effect that if they keep playing the way they did that night, they would be a hard team to beat....and it looks as thought he may have known what he was talking about.

For the first time in a while, I am excited about Leafs play again instead of the management (or lack thereof) side of things...of course that means we will probably lose...lol!

but hey...at least we are not the Sens ...6 losses in a row!!! and more to come I am sure.

Go Leafs Go!
hey kid...watch where you are going...that blue ice is mine alone