Post-game review: Toronto vs. Ottawa – Game 1

Overall, this was one hell of a game, and I was extremely pleased with the effort the Toronto Maple Leafs put in tonight, both offensively and defensively. The Leafs first line of Antropov, Sundin, and Blake showed chemistry, while the Stajan, Steen, Ponikarovski line also showed some spark.
Defensively, I was quite impressed with the tandem of Gill and Wozniewski, considering the horrible review they got on the TSN pre-game. The Alfredsson, Heatley, Spezza line was relatively non-existent until half way through the 3rd period, which was highlighted by a horrible game by Jason Spezza. Alfredsson was alright, while Danny Heatley showed why he deserves a 6 year, 45 million dollar contract. Now to the goaltending. Let’s start with the easy stuff. Gerber played a half-decent game, although I’m sure he would like to have Stajan’s goal back. Barring that, however, Gerber stepped up quite well in his first game of the 2007-2008 season, although there is quite a large room for improvement (especially if he’s looking to take Emery’s job away from him).

Now, moving on to the main issue… Andrew Raycroft. I must state, before I continue on, I have quite a bias opinion of this goaltender. I hated the fact that he was compared to Ed Belfour (37 Wins), I still hate the fact that Toronto gave up Tukka Rask for him, and I hate Leafs TV’s EXTREMELY bias defensive tactics concerning Raycroft. Regardless, an analysis of his play in this game is required. The first two goals were absolutely brutal, especially Alfredsson’s lackadaisically lobbed wrist shot. Heatley’s first goal, the tying goal, was relatively impossible to stop, but the overtime goal (scored, again, by Danny Heatley) was a poor positional play. It seemed, for a while, that after allowing two softies, Raycroft settled into his own, and made quite a few tough saves. He was starting to gain some respect from me again (after surrendering two horrendous goals), until I was devastated by Danny Heatley’s five hole shot in overtime. I just don’t understand it. A pass is coming across. There are no other intended targets, except Heatley, who is tied up with Chad Kilger, and yet you don’t position yourself to the possible shooter, paddle down, legs closed, and in the butterfly stance. Then I thought for a while (not really). Raycroft, is a back-up goaltender. He played like crap last year, and he played like crap in this years pre-season. Which brings me to my point. Why did he get the start over Toskala? Some say to save hometown embarassment, others say to create competition, etc. I don’t care! You bought Toskala as a number one goaltender (at least JFJ did) and your showing doubt already, in the season opener, which has tremendous importance (way to instill confidence in your new goalie Maurice). Now you go into Ottawa, where Ottawa’s raising there Eastern Conference Championship banner, and the Sen’s fans will be all over Toskala (because of his struggles in the pre-season). I can hear it now; “Toskala! Toskala! Toskala”.

What pissed me off even more was Paul Maurice’s, as well as the Leafs TV hosts ability to deflect any criticism of Andrew Raycroft, with references to the ‘positives’ of the game. Listen, your team has lost the last hand full of home openers to Ottawa, you only got one point (which is what you missed out on the playoffs last year with), you’ve started out badly on your home stand, and you have confusion between two goaltenders, who weren’t of superstar quality to begin with. Is it me, or is any other Leaf fan angry about the fact that Maurice is treating Toskala and Raycroft like their Giguere and Bryzgalov, or, previously, Nabokov and Toskala. The Leafs do not have a 1 and 1A goaltending system, but, rather, a starting and back-up system which has yet to be acknowledged or established. What furthers my anger is the way Maurice organized the pre-season schedules between Toskala and Raycroft. Toskala gets stuck with rookie filled rosters who gave little to no effort, compared to Raycroft, who had the assistance of a starting roster short a few players.

It could just be my bias surfacing again, but it seems to me that Paul Maurice has shown a bit of favoritism towards Raycroft so far, and if he intends to continue with a 1 and 1a goaltending system (more like 1a and 2b), the Leafs are surely doomed for disaster, or, at the very least, a tough march to the last playoff spot (barely).