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.

March 05, 2007

A List

Hockey-Related Things To Do At Some Point

1) See a game
2) See a Toronto game
3) See a Toronto win
4) Watch a Toronto game at the Air Canada Centre
5) Touch the Stanley Cup
6) Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame
7) Learn to skate
8) Play in a hockey game (regardless of what level)
9) Score a goal (ditto)
10) Convert a non-fan into a fan.

More to be added when I think of them.

March 04, 2007

A Bitter Taste - Toronto 1 - 3 Buffalo

It might have been nice if we could have taken the momentum gained from bitch-slapping New Jersey into this game with the Buffaslugs, but much like in our earlier waxing, Ryan Miller was all but impenetratable (I believe he was the game's first star, saving 26 of the 27 shots we had). It would also have been nice if Darcy Tucker's return could have been a little more successful, but that ties in with Miller being outstanding for the Slugs. Then again, the chances are that with missing part of our top defensive pairing and a number of other players coupled with the 6-1 defeat on Tuesday, few would have expected us to come out of the game with any points. to start with.

Unfortunately, all this was clouded by the continuation of the Janssen situation. I opined that we might not see him suspended at all for his hit, and that Colim Campbell mishandling the case would lead to repercussions throughout the game, but I was proven wrong when the league handed down a three-game suspension on Janssen. While the length is satisfactory, there's another problem that takes precedent - sure, Janssen's out for the next three games, but as Tucker pointed out Janssen rarely plays any significant time for the Devils. His estimate of "two minutes a game" is probably a bit conservative, but I'd be surprised if his average TOI is more than five minutes. Anyway, Janssen is part of the Devils' fourth line, which means that through his three-game suspension they will be without a fourth-line winger.

What the fuck kind of a punishment is that?

Janssen's fined about $7,000 , which would be a stiff fine for a person in a normal line of work, but I'm guessing hockey players don't feel the sting quite as much because of the size of their contracts, and also misses three games. The Devils lose someone who barely plays for them anyway for three games. Toronto, on the other hand, lose Kaberle, a star player, for an undefined length of time at a point in the season when it is absolutely critical to have your team firing on all cylinders. Look at that state of affairs and tell me that's not messed up. The Devils get to sit back and laugh; our burden just grows. If you want to see the incident in glorious Youtubeavision, Ninja of Raking Leafs ( was nice enough to provide three seperate videos of it.


March 03, 2007

A Dangerous Precedent - Devils 3 - 4 Leafs (OT, SO)

A player sees the puck far away at the other end of the rink, and moves to rejoin the play. Another player, for some unknown slight, takes it upon himself to check our original player from behind with the result that the checkee's head slams into the boards. Now, take away those last four words. The more Leaf-astute of you may already have deduced what I'm referring to, but for those of you who are not, I believe that, last night, we were lucky Tomas Kaberle did not join Ace Bailey in having his career brutally cut short as the result of an unpenalised hit. Bailey was hit by Eddie Shore as retaliation for a hit Shore himself had received earlier, a reason reprehensible enough as it is, but we may never know the real reason Cam Janssen's mind goaded him into attacking Kaberle.

Janssen claims that he was just finishing his check, and that "I've got to take the body and I did"; in another situation, that would be explanation enough. We accept it's the job of defensemen and tough guys to agitate and enforce around the ice, and if they can intimidate a dangerous opponent it gives the whole team a boost as a result. But it is no-one's job to see a player who's noticably behind the run of the play and decide to nail them solely because they're one of the opponent's best players - Andrew Raycroft got it spot on when he said that the hit itself wasn't the problem, it was the fact it was ten seconds late that triggered such outrage. Janssen might not think he did anything wrong with the hit, but few players can truly be this dense, and it's this that earns him the second "F" grade. He joins Andrew Peters as the perpetrator of tremendous faggotry.

Ironically, Janssen's assault seemed to have the opposite effect to what it was intended. While it took Kaberle out of the game, it ended up giving the Leafs the supercharge he no doubt wanted the Devils to take on. Matt Stajan, Carlo Colaiacovo and Nik Antropov all scored to put Toronto ahead 3-2 and, even though Sergei Brylin tied it with a powerplay goal, Yanic Perreault went some way to justifying his cost with a goal in the ensuing shootout and Jeff O'Neill put in the winner. So what do you attribute this to? Was it karma biting the Devils in the ass for Janssen's hit going unpenalised - I doubt it, but I'd like to think so. There are some other observations I made, some of them disturbing in nature.

1) The referees continue to operate above a glass ceiling that we common folk can't break. Neither of the two referees saw fit to call Janssen for his late hit - I don't quite know what a late hit constitutes, but my guess is probably interference - nor penalise him for causing the injury; however, they then refused to be interviewed by the press after the game, knowing full well they'd be torn to pieces for missing something that severe, and the likelihood is that they'll never be brought to task for it. Worse yet, there's a very distinct possibility that Janssen won't even receive a suspension for his actions from someone like Colin Campbell, meaning while we have Kaberle out for an undefined amount of time, the Devils walk away from the incident scot-free.

2) The boys done good. Stajan and Cola scored, Woz and White had assists.

3) The dangerous precedent of the title is too close for comfort. While I can't say anything without it being speculation now, if Janssen goes either unpunished or gets off lightly, we have problems. If he goes unpunished, then all future occurances of something like this have to bear Janssen's mishandled case withBertuzzi's mishandled case as well. If he gets off lightly, it sets a benchmark that will make the league's enforcers not be too concerned with official retributions if they go out and injure a team's stars.

4) I find it funny that Darcy Tucker - scratched for the game due to injury - took it upon himself to talk to Janssen. A fellow Leaf opined that he was making threats of pain to come to the Devil, whereas a Senator claimed Tucker was asking him out to lunch and a Duck swore he was asking for tips. Me? I like the threats angle myself, it gives the impression that there's real team spirit (or it could be that they've taken to contracting their hits out to other teams. If that's ever proven right I want full credit for calling it).

5) Martin Brodeur still has a losing record against us. I only picked that titbit of information myself up yesterday, apparently he has a record above .500 against every team bar Toronto and Vancouver. Who knew?

March 01, 2007

A Game Of Kings (And Ducks)

At first, I thought I was seeing things. I rubbed my eyes, nothing had changed. I refreshed the page, nothing had changed. I checked the calendar, and unless Canadians operate a month ahead of everyone else, it was legitimate. Finally, finally I was going to be in a position where the National Hockey League was sending teams over to do battle in the bigger one of the London brothers and I could witness it. Finally, I was going to get the opportunity to watch and appreciate fully the intricacies of a hockey game, to dissect the great plays that made the goals happen, to wince at the bruising checks, to egg on the pugilists as they dropped the gloves to do the two-fisted tango. Come hell or high water, I will be at the O2 arena on September 29th when the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks come into my house.

There's more than half a year to go and I'm already retardedly excited. Just imagine how hyped-up I'll be when the month rolls around. Now, I'm off to pray that the Kings and the Ducks actually bring their proper rosters.

A Dream Crushed (By The Unlikeliest Of People)

Since kindling my enjoyment of the game of kings, I found myself harbouring vague pipe dreams of somehow reaching stardom as a player; asking Santa to bring me some talent for Christmas, making a deal with the Devil to the same end (and upon death I would replace Cerberus as the guardian of the gates of Hell), writing to Mark Messier to ask if I could borrow his ability for a while (and then conveniently forgetting to give it back), all were methods I considered putting into practice. But see, this all lead to a more specific purpose than just general stardom. About a year ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who falls into a similarly small minority as I in that he plays American football, and enjoys it. He mentioned that his aim was to become the first British player ever to be drafted into the National Football League - he plays at the position of outside linebacker; his name is Matt Floyd, and that piece of information is so if he ever hits is big, I can point back and say "I knew him, I knew him when he was terrible" - and I found this interesting.

To my knowledge, there has yet to be a Brit drafted into the NFL, and this brought rise to a new facet of my own dreams - I dreamt of becoming the first Brit ever to be drafted into the NHL.

You may think that was absurd. Owen Nolan was the first Brit ever to be drafted into the NHL, everyone knows that, you might cry, a claim that is actually false; he apparently holds dual nationalities, evidence by his representation of Team Canada, and so in my twisted logic, doesn't count as British. But none of that really matters, for today my dream was crushed and worse yet, it was crushed by someone I barely even knew anything about.

Byron Dafoe.

He may not even be the first Brit drafted - I feel no real desire to check further, since there is no way short of me travelling back in time and switching him with the baby of a French couple in the maternity ward of the hospital in which he came into the world for me to make it not so - but for one reason or another, I happened upon his Wikipedia entry. I could almost hear the child inside me wearing the skates and pads scream with anguish as he realised he would never become a record-breaker, or even a record-setter, and would have to make it on talent alone. So damn you Byron Dafoe, you and your barely over .500 record!

Still, it doesn't really matter. After all, I can't skate.