March 25, 2007

A Split II - Buffalo 5 - 4 Toronto/Toronto 4 - 1 Buffalo

It could have been worse, we could have come away with absolutely nowt, but I would have much preferred us simply to have conceded five times in the first frame then scored our four. A loss like that - "the ultimate come-from-behind victory" as I heard a Sabre fan opine - was a poor one, and I can't lay all the blame at Raycroft's door again because there are only really two or three goalies who can keep facing multiple-man rushes and come away clean (and only one of them is still playing). But enough about that, as the OTHER game was a hell of a lot better. Buffalo did get away with some stuff, but at the same time so did we so that's not a variable I want to spend time crying over. Darcy Tucker scored twice, I'm happy, Cola scored, and best of all we forced Ryan Miller out of the game - RYAN MILLER. There really is nothing sweeter than making a quality goaltender go to the bench with his tail between his legs.

Of course, it semi-backfired for two reasons. First, he was being replaced by Ty Conklin, who...well, it's Ty Conklin, I shouldn't really have to explain this. And second, somehow Brian Campbell got his brains scrambled enough to check his own goaltender, a marvellous occurance. Maybe it was karmic retribution for some sin Conklin had done in the past, I really don't care too much past he got hit by his own defenseman. It was a beautiful sight. That said, I am getting on the Buffalo bandwagon for the President's Trophy for no other reason than I don't want to see Detroit take it. Nashville, I have no problem with, hell it'd be a good thing for a smaller market team to make it, but Detroit have had altogether too much success of late and need to be taken down some pegs. Being beaten by the Oilers last year (and MAN have they fallen hard) was a good step, but it's not enough.

P.S. How sweet was it to see Cam Janssen get pummelled by WMB?

March 13, 2007

An Inconsistency To Make Alexandre Daigle Proud

Like most people who follow the sport, I heard about the Chris Simon incident. If you've just returned from a relaxing vacation at the Rock Hilton, the gist is this - after being checked into the boards by Ryan Hollweg, Simon had a rush of blood to the head and hit Hollweg in the face with his stick. It was not an accidental hit, everything from Simon's posture to his grip on the stick screams that it was an assault, and only the most die-hard Islander could dare to claim otherwise. Simon later said that he was suffering from a concussion after the original check that was discovered later on, and claims that his memory of the unpleasant incident is fuzzy; the implication here is that Simon was not himself when he swung and it was a result of him just losing his temper and doing something reckless. I can relate, and so can many of you as we've all done things we later regretted when we lost our temper. Anyway, the upshot of this is that Simon will be banned for at least 25 Islander games - the exact terms are a bit cloudy, but my understanding is that he will banned for the 14 games remaining in the regular season, and then the entire postseason should the Islanders make it. If they do not, or if they don't play 11 games in the playoffs, the remaining suspension will spill over into next year's regular season. Some are claiming that this punishment is unfair, as it harms the Islanders' bid for the postseason, and I can see where they're coming from, but that's just a regrettable consequence of one player's rash action. It also means New York can give someone else a chance they might otherwise not have got. But anyway, the summary of this is that Chris Simon is banned for at least 25 games.

Somewhere, Ray Emery is sitting back and laughing with gusto.

Before you have fits of rage, let me make one thing clear. I have seen both hits, and I recognise that Emery's was nowhere near as bad as Simon's. Emery's was out of frustration and it was with the side of the blade, Simon's was a clear decision and it was with the edge of the blade. The two were different and should be treated differently. But Emery still hit a player in the face with his stick, that is the end result of his action. To give Simon a minimum 25 game suspension but to let Emery back into the net after just three games on the bench is ridiculous, nothing more, nothing less. I'm definitely not saying Simon's penalty should be reduced, I'm saying Emery's should have been longer, I'd say a ten-game minimum. Frustration isn't an acceptable excuse for hitting someone in the face with an object that could easily do some serious damage, and that's why I'm glad Simon got hit hard for his crime. Just think - if he'd swung a couple of inches higher, Ryan Hollweg could have been blind by now; if he'd swung a couple of inches lower, he could have fucked up Hollweg's windpipe and even killed him.

March 12, 2007

A Split - Ottawa 5 - 1 Toronto/Toronto 4 - 3 Ottawa

The first game went...well, pretty much as predicted, it was a big loss. Ottawa just peppered Raycroft; 40 shots they had in total, and that's not really acceptable. We've seen that Raycroft had trouble coping under pressure, and a 23-shot first period is too much for our defensive corps to let through. However, I do have to give some credit to them, they are doing a fairly good job this year restricting opposing offences (an average of just over 28.5 shots per game, says David Johnson at Hockey Analysis, a figure almost identical to that of New Jersey's blueliners) - I still don't like the acquisitions of Kubina or Gill because of the cap room the two are eating up, but nonetheless defense isn't our biggest concern at the moment. I like Raycroft, but the criticisms are beginning to build up; anyone else think it might be worth giving Justin Pogge a couple of games at the end of the season? (at least, if the playoff situation has already been resolved. If we're still in with a shot of making it, putting Pogge in would be a dangerous move)

The second game, on the other hand, was an inspiring performance from everyone bar Raycroft. Ottawa had just 22 shots, Darcy Tucker went some way to justifying his new contract with a goal in regulation and the overtime winner and we got two points we badly needed, what with NYR and Carolina tied on 76 points (and especially since Carolina are a game ahead of us at the moment) and Montreal are stuck on 74 points (and have likewise played a game more than we have). Considering Ottawa are solidly ensconced in the postseason places, it actually gives me some potentially ill-placed hope of experiencing some success. It irked me that Perreault didn't play, and also that Raycroft gave up three goals on 17 shots, but there was plenty of good to outweigh these problems. On the subject of injuries, it seems that our walking wounded have been given a liberal injection of gung-ho mentality - Kaberle has said he wants to return this year, Kubina is coming back at a disturbingly rapid pace, Wellwood of course played the second game and Peca is now the only major casualty still missing. Is it optimistic to hope to have him back for the playoffs? Probably, but I'll still hope it happens nonetheless.

Incidentally, is Wade Belak a defenseman or a forward? I can't work out which position he's supposed to be playing, it changes from source to source.

March 07, 2007

A Shutout?! - Toronto 3 - 0 Washington

This game has to be the anti-Buffalo - Raycroft played well, we killed the Washington powerplays, Perreault scored his first goal as a Leaf and things just went our way for a change. Fred Cassivi suffered as a result, but then he's been the Hershey goaltender and is hardly an NHL-calibre goaltender; it's more surprising that the AO Experience didn't have more scoring threats, particularly since Kaberle was out. I'm not sure whether to take it as a surprise or as a good sign for the playoffs. We go into a eighth-place tie with Carolina, and we do have a game on the Canes and Montreal, but with two games against the Sensators coming up then one against Tampa Bay, this little stretch will probably determine whether or not we get into the postseason.