(Eds note: Chris returns after spending the day before learning to spell "Wozniewski").
One last day and then we’re ready for the longest-coming opening night in NHL history. And how did the Leafs get ready? A little golf, a little fishing, some last-minute practicing – and welcome to the show, Andy Wozniewski.
Tis the season for predictions.
The gimme putt this round has to be Sid Crosby for Rookie of the Year. I’ll take Joe Thornton for the scoring title. Vancouver over Ottawa in an all-Canadian Cup final. As for the Leafs, with everyone seemingly so down on them, I’m figuring that if Ed Belfour’s back holds up – on a team of ifs, this is the one that means by far the most – they can scrape into eighth overall in the conference and win one playoff game, which should be good for an evening’s worth of horn-honking up Yonge.
In other words, the usual. (Watching Alex Steen, Matt Stajan and the rest of the kids develop should be far more intriguing than the will-they-or-won’t-they in the standings).
I’m anxious to see where readers line up. Give us your predictions on ROY, Cup final, first coach fired, when Don Cherry has his first rant on the new rules, and on and on. We’ll pick out the best ones and salute you tomorrow as we set up our first live text commentary during the Leafs opening game.
Now to the links, where yeah, old friend Stumpy Thomas hasn’t quite given up the conditioning routine just yet – though he’s not waiting by the phone, either. Pat Quinn is tinkering with the lines already, while over with the Marlies, Paul Maurice is telling the kids to buck up. And oh yes, the Leafs defence? It’s already questionable.
Stat of the times: Preseason scoring (6.2 average) was up by a goal compared to 2003, and those 17 power plays per game? Up by a whopping six from two years ago.
Around the league:
Who't the greatest player in Red Wings history? Yzerman or Howe?
Sidney Crosby's nickname? Daaaaarrrylll!
"Not too many guys know about it now, but when I was in junior, my first exhibition game I got eight points, and (former Maple Leaf) Darryl Sittler got 10 in the NHL (in 1976), so they just said 'Darryl' and it kind of stuck the last couple of years," Crosby says.
Andy Roach could make the St. Louis Blues as a sixth defenceman. Why? Playing in Germany, he turned out to be a penalty shot expert, making about 50 percent. (Last year in the AHL, shooters made 31.4 percent.)
"The key is to move it wide," Roach tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You need the goalie moving one way, so you need to get it out there, but the quicker you do it, the better. It's like a deke; you have to sell the move."
Are you paying attention, Mats?