The Leafs have a nice little string going, and Ken Campbell hits it right on the head in his morning gamer off last night's tidy 4-1 win in Boston against the
limpid limping (thanks, Matthew) Bruins (another one of those broadcasts from "Canada's sports leader in high-definition" that wasn't available in HD):
In their past two games, the Leafs have taken a total of just eight minor penalties and have surrendered only one goal while killing them. In the new NHL, power plays are so important that you'd better make sure you're not getting your lunch handed to you 5-on-5 on a regular basis. In their past two games, both wins, the Leafs have given up one 5-on-5 goal.
Those penalty stats are a bit skewed, too, by the double minor O'Neill took in the last two-plus minutes last night, well the Bruins had turned into human white flags. Up until recently, the Leafs were good for a couple of dumb stick penalties a night -- I haven't seen one since a careless O'Neill trip in the first period at Montreal last Saturday.
Which brings me to a question -- is it just me, or do you see the referees changing the way they're calling the game? It was noted last night on the broadcast that players who dump the puck in are being ridden off into the boards now with some gusto, and although that seemed to be a penalty a month ago, it's not now.
There are, too, at least one or two occasions a game now where apparent penalties aren't called (last night, it was a cross-check on O'Neill in front of the net; based on just impressions, the front of the net area does seem to be a little more vigorously contested of late). The Leafs are playing with some added discipline (finally!), but it also looks to me like the refs are letting a little bit more go -- although I'd love to hear some opinions from those of you who are watching more games from elsewhere around the league than I confess I am right now.
I had some defensive stats to throw at you, but I've left them at work and will update this later
when I get into the office next week.
Meantime, here's some good reads, some of them I've been hoarding after yesterday's technical-difficulties day made for a compressed posting:
Ace hockey scribe Paul Hunter gets dressed to kill as an extra in the National Ballet Company's Swan Lake production, and compares the pas de deux to a cross-ice pass -- a great morning read from one of this paper's best writers:
It is when the dancers traipse off the stage and drop the elegant facade, that one gets a better understanding of how hard they push themselves. Unheard over the orchestra is the panting as they gasp for their breath and grab for water bottles, not unlike a hockey player after a tough shift. Unseen are the pained expressions as they stretch and contort their bodies, limbering up for the next scene.
There's nothing like the image of a swan maiden, doubled over, spitting in to a garbage can to dispel the notion that this is easy.
As for myself, my task at yesterday's matinee consisted mostly of standing and nodding the odd time, a role made for a sports reporter.
Ace blogger Eric McErlain has his weekly podcast out -- and also this week, he writes about taking up an invitation to attend a Caps game in owner Ted Leonsis's box (Imagine -- a blogger getting that kind of recognition. Nice job Mr Owner. Nice job Eric).
Hockey Analysis has tinkered with its Entertainment Index (yeah, I couldn't resist, that's me with the comment about adding minus points for Pierre McGuire on the broadcast)..