Another day, another shootout.
The Leafs don’t do shootouts too well, do they? Last night it was Ottawa, and Hasek. Last week it was Ottawa, and Hasek. As Damien Cox notes, there seems to be a pattern there, somewhere.
Actually, the Leafs don’t do a number of things too well. As they say in the doctoring game, the shootouts are the symptom, not the cause.
With the Flyers coming in tonight, less than 24 hours after Toronto loses another game of three-shot roulette to the Senators, the possibility probability looms that they’ll end their first week of this new NHL with an oh-fer record.
This isn’t hockey. It’s Clueless III:
“I’ve got Spezza and Schaeffer right on me in the crease. If I get a stick on one of them, I get a penalty. If I don’t, one of them pokes it in. I lose either way.”
That was Bryan McCabe. Then there was Pat Quinn on the Sens’ fifth goal, the one that negated a nice Leafs comeback in the third period, the one that set up the shootout, the one where no one on the ice appeared the least interested in defending. This isn’t hockey. It’s flute lessons:
“There’s two guys with their fingers in the wrong spots and you can’t play hockey with your fingers in the wrong spots.”
The question this morning is just who is going to grab the baton and lead them out of this mess.
Is it Quinn, who, in the apt description of Joe Bowen, is beginning to look like the Bayonne Bleeder? (Harry Neale was calling for the coach to wear a visor last night, but c’mon Harry, you know what Pat would say – “It’s just not for me.”)
Is it Jason Allison, along with Kyle Wellwood the only creative forwards the Leafs have? (and I hate to echo the un-echoable Don Cherry, but how did they ever send Wellwood down? He can’t backcheck, but how do they ever send him down again?) The problem for Allison, who seemed mostly lost last night, is that he has been a purely solo act so far. His wingers aren’t going to space, and he’s hanging on to the puck too long.
Is it Tomas Kaberle, to these eyes the Leafs’ best player thus far? Is it McCabe, like Kaberle logging 30+ minutes a night? Aki Berg and Wade Belak, separated last night after that horrid Saturday night against Montreal, appear not ready for prime time in this new NHL – but along with the Leafs’ overall defensive woes, this is hardly a surprise to anyone who watched them during the preseason.
Is it Lindros? Belfour? Maybe even Chara, or Redden, if you're really thinking ahead?
It was encouraging last night to see Darcy Tucker finally show up, although he should have had two or three goals instead of just one. As for Czerkawski and Ponikarovsky, where are they?
Bad as it is for the Leafs, this more wide-open brand of hockey is proving a welcome departure for anyone watching -- curiously, last night at the Corel Centre was almost 1,000 short of a sellout -- and it fits for up and comers like Steen and Stajan (and Wellwood, if they stay with him). It’s fast, and up and down. It’s got some ebb and flow, and it’s manageable in terms of time. The full flowering of a player like Jason Spezza, with his Olympic dreams, is a great thing to watch.
The 2 ½-hour NHL game is wonderful, too. Shootout (and Leafs) not included, that is. -- C.Y.
To the links, where we'll set up tonight's (first win?) tilt with the Flyers. Another arch rival in tha house. Must say, this unbalanced schedule doesn't lend for many nights off. Or maybe it's the Killer B's that's leaving me with the sweaty forehead?
"To me, the rivalry is the jersey, more so than who is in the jerseys," Flyers centre Keith Primeau tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That always makes for exciting games between the two clubs. They have enough guys there to remember from the last couple of playoffs, and we have enough guys here aware, as well."
"I've played in a lot of playoff series and I've played in a lot of playoff games that were a lot of fun, but the last 2 years we've faced Toronto and nothing has taken more out of me than the series that we've played against them," Primeau tells the Philadelphia Daily News.
The view from Philly also comes with a healthy dose of Eric Lindros. They know how good he can be over in Flyers camp. The former Flyers MVP and Legion of Doomer has been one of Toronto's best players so far (he's my pick - above, Chris points out Kaberle, discuss). He'll have to keep it up for the Leafs to climb out of their 'funk'.
We'll leave you today with ... you: Some observations this morning from visitors to this space:
Criticism and kudos from regular scribe FlamFlim:
Leafs who need to pick it up: Mariusz Czerkawski (who? where? when? what?!), Darcy Tucker, Jason Allison, oh hell .. everybody! Kudos for big efforts to Lindros, Belfour, McCabe, Kaberle, Wellwood, Khavanov (love that guy), Wilm, and Kilger.
And a call for calm from Colin Bolger:
STOP SLAGGING DOMI AND BELAK!! Domi scored 15 goals in limited duty a couple years ago! He led them in the playoffs that year until his bone-head move on Neidermeyer! But Quinn continues to use him mostly as a fourth liner and a goon, even though he looks great with Lindros and he looked good on the power play last night! ... I would rather have Domi and Belak out there working their hearts out than have floaters like Antropov, Ponikerovski, Czerkawski or Berg...
We had to look it up, but Domi did score 15 goals in 2002-03. He's got two in three games so far this year, putting him on pace for 54. Hopefully we won't have to count on him for that many. (SW)