Saturday, January 12

Well, The Leafs Won the Second Period, Right?

As a responsible hockey blogger and all around dullard entertaining guy, I'm a big believer in giving the people what they want. And right now what the people want know what happened when I went to see the Leafs play the Kings at the Staples Center on Thursday! I know, I know, me too! It's all so interesting even I want to know what happened, and I was there!

As I mentioned bitterly a few posts ago, HS/HS second liner Moose's asshole of a boss promised he and I a box suite in exchange for joining his team. We did that, in the end handing him a t-shirt with the word "CHAMPIONS" on it. Being the honorable dudes we are, we clearly expected him to stiff us and snicker when we decided to actually ask him for his promised riches, which he did. We really shouldn't have been too surprised really. You know that ancient Confucian proverb: "If wise men lay with dogs...something - something - something - Moose's boss is a jerk."

So I had to scramble like crazy and got probably some of the best seats in the arena. Section 119, Row 14, Seat 15, directly above the Leafs bench. I got there an hour before the game, as did 10,000 other Leafs jerseys. It was so amazing being with people I actually care about. I mean, I usually hang out with Moose, so that tells you something right there. When grown men are giving smiling acknowledgment to each other in the bathroom, you know it's either because you each have a Leafs jersey on, or you're both cruising for anonymous gay sex. This time, it was the former.
I was right beside the Leafs tunnel and took these action shots:

What's amazing are two things. One, that clearly I should be a photographer for the Associated Press, and two, it's amazing how thrilled I was to see them. I haven't seen the Leafs since 2003, so getting the chance again was really incredible.
Here's a note about me: I'm not a star fucker in any way; I could give a shit about celebrity. I've been friends with very famous people, and let me tell you, the majority of them are the meanest, shit-hearted jerks you'll ever meet. But when it comes to this group, that changes. During the warm-up, I had my face pressed up against the glass with the other lunatics and I made eye contact with Mats as he skated up to, and past the glass, and right then and there, I literally got sprung. I'm sorry if this shocks you, but it's true. I got sprung. It's a good thing I was wearing my bathrobe.

By the way, reading this back to myself, I realize that all this may be like being forced to look at someones slides of their trip to Banff National Park, except, you know, awesome, and about the Leafs. And quasi-gay. Ok, totally gay. But, you know, just bear with me.

As for the game itself. Uh, wow. We've all had a few days to digest everything we saw, and everything we didn't see. I REALLY don't want to pile on Andrew Raycroft, but that was one of the softest goaltending performances I've ever seen. It looked like when one of the trainers puts on equipment for the players to shoot at him during an optional skate. The size and frequency of the rebounds Andrew was giving out were really shocking. Frolov floats a week backhander off his chest and it sails four feet away back to the slot, to be slammed in for (another) goal. That's not weak goaltending, that's no goaltending. I don't think Raycroft will ever see another game in a Leafs sweater. His bad performances are now pathological. J.S. Aubin never saw another Leafs game, and he played better than Raycroft has this year. Scott Clemmensen is the Leafs backup goalie.

From what I saw, this is a group of players who are having absolutely no fun playing hockey right now. They all looked so unbelievably miserable on the bench. When Darcy scored, he skated straight to the bench, slammed the door and sat down. A team so far down like this is ripe for speculation. Have they given up on Paul Maurice, and have accepted that his system has failed, as everyone seems to think? Or is it an indication that the other shoe is about to drop, and that something has to change, and that starts on the ice. I guess we'll have an indication of what the answer is starting in San Jose.

LEAFS 2007 – 2008: These are not the Droids you are looking for

Let me start by saying that putting Toskala into the net on Thursday was one of the worst hockey decisions I have ever seen. One can suppose that Paul Maurice was just trying to protect an already destroyed Andrew Raycroft. (As a goalie I appreciate the move, as a Leaf fan I am horrified.) Or that just like line combinations, taking him out was tantamount to shaking up the team. (Of course, Raycroft was marshmallow soft and clearly couldn't’t see the puck.) I don’t care how porous the defense in front of you is, an .871 save percentage is your own doing. Still I believe he should have played the whole game. Suffered the complete loss and was given the chance to be part of the much better 2nd and 3rd periods. Quite frankly I think pulling him wasn’t the red flag in front of the team it was supposed to be. It was a white flag.
(Did you see Raycroft on the bench after he was pulled. I have never seen someone chew gum so forlornly.)

It left me uneasy that Toskala was put in. What am I supposed to make of a blatant disregard of his groin? Re-injured…of course...cos groins are apparently made of gold leaf. (No pun)

And for tonight’s game, all I can hope is that Pogge was called up to back up Raycroft…not start. I believe in baptism by fire but ask Dan Blackburn what can happen when you bring a goalie in too early. Simply put, this isn’t Pogge’s time. I think calling Clemenson back would have been a better choice. Regardless of who is called up. You gotta go with Raycroft. For so many reasons its just a shame that I dont have some sort of avenue to write and tell you why.

Paul Maurice and his coaching style of hard work, intense fore-checking, strong puck support and attention to defensive play clearly was the wrong choice for this team. Just in case you were playing along, that’s sarcasm. One can only hope that he is not caught in the crossfire….
He should be held accountable for a disastrous PP and PK and as his claim, at the beginning of the year, that this team was playoff ready. Our slide, this slide, really…with very few exceptions, has been happening from the beginning. The few games where we did play well were clearly the anomaly.
As far as I am concerned you keep Kaberle, Antropov, Toskala, Wellwood, White and Stajan…other than that…all the rest if up for grabs.

This is where Toskala is injured.