Sunday, October 21, 2007

As the centre of the universe turns

Earlier in the day, it was suggested to Maurice that there is significance – an implicit insult – in the fact that opposing teams have repeatedly started No. 2 goaltenders against his Leafs. He retorted wryly: "We play our backup every night.'' Chuckle-chuckle.

Some 10 hours later, it wasn't so funny.
Paul Maurice is a strange cat.

I mean, you have to be, in some ways, to last amid all of the silliness here in Toronto, but sometimes it seems he's simply poking the bear (the bear being the media throng), feeding the masses quotes worth reading.

I'm not sure what good it does to brand the only two NHL netminders in your organization this way, and maybe he means nothing by it. Many goaltenders consider the 'backup' label to be an insult, but I suppose its fair given the merry-go-round Maurice has employed in goal so far.

The only sort of "roll" either Vesa Toskala or Andrew Raycroft was allowed to go on was the three games Toskala started in a row (Games 2, 3 and 4), and given No. 4 was a 7-1 blowout loss to Carolina, one can see the method behind the madness of alternating the team's 'tenders.

Let's just say you shouldn't envy them.

Toronto has allowed the most shots on goal per game of any team in the league so far — this after finishing seventh in the category last season. And the one thing that hasn't changed is the team save percentage, which after dipping to a god-awful .888 last year is down to .884. (Los Angeles is the bottom feeder at .862.)

Toronto's been bad at even strength (21 goals against, better than only the Kings), and on the penalty kill (13 goals against, better than only Atlanta). They've been shorthanded a league-high 61 times, and the power play's firing at just 11.1 per cent.

The real wonder, come to think of it, is just how this team has managed to get eight points out of its first nine games. Well, that and the fact Nik Antropov leads the league in plus-minus.

At least they've got Atlanta on Tuesday.

And I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see Ondrej Pavelec in the opposition goal.

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16 Comments:

At 11:45 PM, October 21, 2007, Blogger HockeyTownTodd said...

Chicago at Toronto was real interesting, only if you are curious as to how bad can the Leafs get.
The Hawks 3rd game in 4 nights, and the Maple Leafs 3rd in 6 nights, they couln't even play the schedule excuse.
"Leafs fans are a passionately disgruntled bunch,
but good sports, even with their funny accents."-----The Third Man in
The Leafs taking a 2 goal lead (3-1) into the third, found themselves tied at 1:34 in, and just disintegrated into 'I got him..no ...you take him' until it was shower time. The Hawks finished it off with 5G in the 3rd, 2PP and an empty netter. Sundin's SHG, and the Belak-Koci bout were the only reasons the Toronto fans had to leave their seats. After the game, the DON had more than a bit to say about the Leafs letting Perreault and Pecca get away..
I have been to Toronto, and there is a lot of good hockey in the area. Most everyone knows their hockey there...but...there must have been a lot of inbreeding. How else could you explain that they just keep buying Maple Leaf tickets.
Chad Kilger has got to go...he is just too good on the boards. A tradition has slowly evolved in the Toronto organization to squeeze out anyone that good, or just let the fans run em' out of town.
A player that skilled, just makes their experiment in mediocrity look bad.

 
At 10:55 AM, October 22, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

That's quite the disjointed rant you have going on there.

 
At 11:11 AM, October 22, 2007, Anonymous penaltyshots.ca said...

Keep in mind that the Leafs had/have an entire second line out with injury/suspension, only getting Ponikarovsky back in time for him to have a terrible game and poke holes in my argument. But Stajan/Steen are getting far too much ice time, and they can't use the fourth line at all. Maybe Wellwood will be injured all season, which will be his own fault for a lack of conditioning that even his own father called him on.

I am probably the only one who thinks Mark Bell is going to be a difference maker. If he has cleaned up his life outside the game, then it will translate on the ice. He is exactly what Steen isn't and exactly what the Leafs need: Someone to go to the net, punch someone in the face and tap in a rebound. Steen hasn't got the talent to play perimeter hockey, but he is too wimpy, scared, or stupid to know it.

As far as goalies are concerned, Maurice is trying to get them to compete against each other, but Raycroft isn't good enough to do so. If the Leafs miss by a point, then you can look in part it will be because Maurice started him against Chicago. He shouldn't play more than 10 games this year and if Toskala is a bust they should bring up Pogge and start to develope him.

Keep in mind, that a win against Atlanta puts them at .500, which will be better than the Champs through 10 games and hardly a reason to panick. Sure, their defense has been severely lacking, but has anyone noticed how well they put the puck in the other team's net? Maybe they should, because it seems to me they are NUMBER 1!

 
At 1:22 PM, October 22, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

The Leafs need to develop and execute a defensive system.

 
At 2:13 PM, October 22, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Given that Toronto's problem for several seasons - this one no exception - has been poor defense and too many penalties, I highly doubt Mark Bell is going to improve things. Personally I think they'll be lucky if he's as good as Jeff O'Neal.

So many Leaf fans think they aren't tough enough. They're already loaded down with guys who are six-feet-two-plus and can't score or play defense, as well as smaller 'tough' guys like Tucker and Newbury. More of the same isn't the answer.

 
At 3:13 PM, October 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, did you say "can't score"? Please see above post.

 
At 3:26 PM, October 22, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

" Toronto has allowed the most shots on goal per game of any team"

Only because they don't play the Canucks.

Yesterday, in their game against Columbus, the Canucks went 31 minutes without registering a shot on goal and were outshot 20 to 0 over this period.

Clearly, the solution to the Leafs problem is to play the Canucks more often!

 
At 4:35 PM, October 22, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Yes, I said can't score. Battaglia, Belak, Devereaux, Newbury: 0 goals (Pohl's only 6'1"). Tucker's got 1. Kilger's got 3, but he had all of 14 last year. The team can score, yes, but they're loaded with big guys who can't, and don't contribute much defensively either. Bell's 11 goals will fit right in.

They don't need more big plodders; they've got plenty.

 
At 5:02 PM, October 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we could chop apart 30 teams in the league and list off 5 guys from the third and fourth lines who are plodders that can't score, and yes most of these will bring little else to the table either. It isn't just Toronto.

Newbury is in the minors, I don't think anyone has ever expected Belak to bring offense, and Kilger is nearly always at the top for body checks and I'll take 14 goals from a third liner any day.

I've never seen Bell play a game, but at age 27 I don't think a third 20 plus goal season is out of the question.

 
At 5:05 PM, October 22, 2007, Anonymous Karina said...

Newbury was sent to the AHL. Belak's role isn't to score, and neither are Battaglia nor Devereaux expected to. Tucker's now out indefinitely with an injury - which possibly explains his lack of production to this point.

Sundin and Antropov have had amazing starts to the season. Stajan's playing better than I thought he would. Steen is getting more ice time than he should, but Blake'll get going eventually, and considering that Vancouver's game is Defense and their guys aren't playing any better than the Leafs Defense right now, I think it's a bit early to say that the players are completely at fault.

I agree that Toskala should be getting more starts, but this may be a case of JFJr hoping Raycroft looks good at some point so he can trade him and call up Clemmenson.

But blasting the Leafs because their 4th line who barely plays can't score? Get a life. Anaheim didn't win the cup on the strength of the 4th liners scoring. They had excellent defense, two scoring lines, the best checking centre and good goaltending. If they counted on Moen to score during the season as much as he did in the playoffs, they'd be in trouble. If the Leafs were really relying on the players you listed for scoring they'd been in even worse shape. The problem is that they seem to forget that defense is part of the game at all, not that they can't score.

 
At 9:43 PM, October 22, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

If the Leafs were really relying on the players you listed for scoring they'd been in even worse shape.

But that's just it, guys: those players don't do anything else. On other teams, the third line can play defense, and somewhere in those bottom six forwards are young guys with potential.

I'm not trying to blast the Leafs; I'm not even trying to blast Bell. Heck, I hope he does score 20 goals (like O'Neil did last year) and turn his career around. My point is that the Leafs have too many guys who can't play defense, don't score enough, and take too many penalties - and yet many of their fans seem to think they have too few. Based on Bell's career to date, he's the last guy I'd expect to fix this problem.

 
At 10:53 PM, October 22, 2007, Anonymous Karina said...

But you listed guys who play on the 4th line, if not as healthy scratches.

 
At 11:22 PM, October 22, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Yes; but I also listed guys who play on the third (or second) line. The only forwards I left out were the 'top' six (Sundin, Blake, Antropov, Ponikarovsky, and Stajanandsteen) plus Simon Gamache. Whether or not he's good enough to stick, at least he brings something different to the table.

Did I miss the Leaf's checking line in there somewhere?

Look, I have nothing against Kilger and Tucker. They're fine players, and if Bell plays as well as them he'll contribute. But he's not bringing something the Leafs don't already have in abundance.

 
At 1:42 PM, October 23, 2007, Anonymous Karina said...

"Yes, I said can't score. Battaglia, Belak, Devereaux, Newbury: 0 goals (Pohl's only 6'1"). Tucker's got 1. Kilger's got 3, but he had all of 14 last year."

Battaglia, Belak = regular healthy scratches.
Devereaux = 4th line, occaisonally 3rd.
Newbury in the minors.
Kilger's scoring, Tucker's now injured and apparantly has been having pain in that knee since the start of the season.

So... where's the arguement?

 
At 12:15 AM, October 24, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

I still don't think you understand my point, Karina. Battaglia, Belak, Devereaux and Kilger were all in the lineup tonight, along with Pohl. Other than Kilger these guys are fourth liners at best, but they didn't all play on the fourth line. When Bell comes back, hopefully he'll take the place of one of the first three; but what exactly will he bring to the team that they don't already have in abundance? The fourth line will still be useless, the third line will still be unable to score or defend.

The Leafs don't need more "toughness", they've got plenty. They need more skill.

 
At 11:57 PM, October 24, 2007, Blogger DrFrankLives said...

He did the same thing to Weekes and Irbe (shuffle shuffle shuffle) and ruined them both.

 

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