oh wait, i know – because they are the toronto maple leafs and they are the most overly-hated and overly-dismissed team in hockey.
as for tonight’s game, Mats Sundin continues to prove his critics wrong and i am proud to say ‘i told you so’ to all the leaf fans and non-leaf fans who continue to doubt him. 51 points in 51 games this year (i don’t count his 2-minute game against Ottawa when he got hit in the eye as a game like the NHL does). Sundin and Tellqvist were the only reasons why the leafs won tonight – oh, and the Bruins penchant for dumb penalities. its disconcerting that the leafs made so many mistakes on a night that should have been an easy win. but there are no more easy wins i guess in the new nhl.
McCabe seems to be getting back into his (offensive rhythm) with 19 goals and 59 points. Kaberle continues to be the best passer among defencemen in the NHL adding two more assists tonight for a total of 46 assists and 53 points (the assists are 3rd among NHL D-guys and the point totals are 5th). Also, Allison seems to be hitting his stride with 55 points in 60 games and a few goals in the last couple of games (along with a few turnovers).
stats aside, the leafs need a better effort against the sabres and Rangers. these two games were predicted to be losses according to my ‘plan’ but with their OTL against the Isles and their loss to the Caps two weeks ago, the leafs need to grab at least a point or two from these two elite squads (meaning an OTL, SOL, or an actual win). then, on sunday, the leafs must beat the Pens to stay on course for challenging for the playoffs in April.
As mentioned above, the leafs are not that far back of TB and Atlanta but are 5 points back of the Habs for 8th with the same amount of games played. the good news: they have 2 games against the habs left. the bad news: both are in montreal, against hot goalies, AND the habs have ‘easy’ matches before and after they meet the leafs where the Leafs have very difficult games (Rangers, Sabres, Canes, Devils, Flyers, etc.). Also, the Isles just won’t go away. the islanders, right now, are doing precisely what i thought the leafs would do if they traded some of the vets for young guys or to open up spots for AHL guys. they are scoring and winning with those AHL guys (Tambellini for example). the leafs meanwhile are finally using Ondrus and Telly (thanks to what i some reports are calling a bad back for Belfour). hopefully the Leafs will play better in front of Telly for the Sabres game on thursday. oh, and the Sabres have won 7 straight. great.]]>
the leafs’ #1 player tonight was clearly Tellqvist. Ondrus was strong as well. do we see a pattern yet? will Ondrus get the nod over Domi or O’neill in the next game – probably not. will Tellqvist get another start over Belfour in the next game – probably not. do we see another patter here? sure Eddie has been OK in his past couple of games, but Tellqvist deserves more starts.
at this point in my plan that i posted on Feb. 26, the leafs were supposed to have 67 points but because of the loss to the caps and the OTL to the Isles, the leafs have 64 points – meaning that they have to make up those 3 points against teams like the NYR and Buffalo next weekend. Boston is a must-win game on Tuesday. the leafs are at home, taking on a struggling team. it should be a win but nothing is simple with this leafs squad. lets hope harrison and/or Kronvall will be able to play that night.
the habs won tonight with another Shoutout victory with Huet between the pipes. they are now in 7th, 7 points up on the leafs. TB are 6 points up with the leafs having a game in hand (the HUGE thing about tonight’s game: the leafs win the season series with the Lightning – which is the 2nd tiebreaker, points obtained against a tied team. the leafs have 5 points in 4 games, TB has only 4 points). The leafs are 2 pts back of Atl for 9th with a game-in-hand (the leafs have won that season series as well). the Isles are tied with the leafs for 11th. On Monday the habs take on the Lightning. here’s hoping for a TB regulation win to keep Mtl in shooting distance of the Leafs.
as for the remainder of this month. next week its Boston, at Buffalo, at NYR. the week after: at Pittsburgh (rare sunday game), Carolina, and back-to-back games in Montreal.]]>
Bad news: Belfour gets the start and will probably get the start over Telly on Saturday night too. Also, Quinn decided to pair up Kaberle and McCabe – a gruesome pairing to say the least when it comes to playing smart in their own end.
who had to have a big game: well, Belfour obviously – and he did (except in the shootout – as usual). but besides Eddie – Sundin, Kaberle, Steen, and Wellwood need to continue their solid play. also, Antropov and Stajan need to elevate their game beyond the PK. Sundin made some good plays but didn’t lead the way in OT.
1st period: seemed kind of lame for a team battling for its playoff life (and playing against a team that has supposedly thrown in the towel in terms of making the playoffs). Good start to the second, finally capitalizing on a PP. i know it was a good ‘road game’ but the leafs needed to get the jump on the Isles and generate more shots on goal. they didn’t, and therefore they went to the Shootout, where they typically lose.
there was a comment on the radio that ‘the leafs should be grateful that they have gotten it to the extra period to get at least a point. but that is BS. its BS because a team who’s backs are against the wall should not ‘just be happy’ for such a result. they should have won this in regulation. Also, my thoughts going into the OT – if this goes to the shootout, the leafs are toast – the Isles are great when there are no defencemen around and you are given a bunch of breakaways. too bad the refs didn’t see the massive high stick to Steen in OT.
Sundin – no goal
Poni – no goal
Tucker – no goal
the leafs in shootouts: 2-5
the leafs if the game goes to OT but not the shootout: 5-1
Last month I had stated that “The Leafs take on the Habs for the first of 3 March meetings in a must-win home game. Once again, back-to-back games occur on a friday and saturday against the Isles and Lightning respectively. the leafs should win both games and should start Telly in one of the two games too. During this week of March 6th – March 12th, the Leafs should win all 3 games and come away with 6 points. A crucial must-win home game against the Bruins (making it 4 wins in a row) and then its off for a 3-game road trip in mid-march against 2 tough teams – Rangers and Buffalo – and the Pens. the leafs should try to get at least 4 points on this trip and 6 points in total (which includes the home win against the Bruins).”
well. its not a 6-pt week. at best – with a win at home tomorrow night – they’ll have a 5-pt week. this is simply not good enough at this point. again, the leafs had to have a 4-game win streak going into their road trip next week. now, with their loss to Washington and OTL to NYI, they have to not only win against TB and Boston, they have to pretty much win all their road games next week (not going to happen against the NYR and Buffalo).
as for the standings, on the whole – bad news on most fronts. 7 pts back of Montreal and 8 pts back of TB. the leafs gain on the Thrashers who lost to Ottawa and are 4 points back with 2 games in hand (just two fewer games and 2 fewer losses).]]>