Okay seriously now. We never believed the Leafs were going to be some completely dominating force this year. We were never that deluded. In fact, we were as stunned as the rest of the hockey world when they somehow landed themselves third in the league, (and behind Anaheim and Buffalo who continue to hold on to their respective one and two positions), even as we didn't believe it would last.
And last it hasn't. Sundin returned from IR, and the team collapsed around him. Raycroft hasn't won a game in six (excluding the one that Aubin played which was another loss) despite looking exceptionally well right before that. He hasn't been playing particularly well, but then again, he hasn't exactly had any help from the rest of the guys around him either. The team seems to have forgotten how to skate entirely. They're playing messy, sloppy hockey, and it shows. They played about two minutes of good, strong hockey when the game started tonight, and another two after McCabe's goal. Four minutes out of sixty.
Let's talk about penalties. Fourteen minors in that sixty minutes, just from the Leafs. That means for very close to 50% of the hockey game, we weren't at full strength. The refs were calling a lot of ridiculous minors tonight, sure (that Hasek penalty for example. He gets tripped, can't balance on one foot, and falls over--and somehow this equals unsportsmanlike conduct. Little Jiri looked as perplexed as I was as they marched him off to the bench to serve it), but the Leafs were the ones letting them happen. And they certainly seem to not understand that this is a problem or that any of it is their own fault.
- Pavel Kubina takes a hooking call. Of course it isn't his fault--clearly Tomas Kopecky's to blame. Thus, for some reason rather than try to prevent further damage, Kubina attempts to rail on the Czech. This of course does no good. Maybe not a ridiculous penalty like some of these others, but going along to prove a point, at least.
- Period three, Kilger decides why check (...why yes I did initially write 'czech') one player when you can check two!? He thus takes out two Wings--beautifully, I might add--but as only one of them had anything to do with the puck, he's called for interference. Maybe he was homesick for the penalty box?
- Near the very end of the game, Maltby gets cross-checked, shoved into the goal, and essentially held there, or at least continually shoved back there, while Aubin looks on, entirely distressed that his net is occupied by a bunch of things that should not be there at all. But at least not a puck--not this time, anyway.
This, folks, was some embarassing hockey. I'm not sure what advice to offer at this point--this was not a losing team at the beginning of the season, and something happened to make them fall back to what they were last year. And at this rate, they're just going to keep sliding down until they're resting neatly at the bottom of the Northeast division. Only one point is seperating them from Boston down there--and we've seen how well they've been doing against that team lately. They're tied with Ottawa now--Ottawa. An we've all had lots to say about how they've been playing this year too.
The Wings, on the other hand, are tearing it up again. Datsyuk could have played stronger (what happened to that idea about shooting at the net more? He's like the Ales Hemsky of the Detroit Red Wings, but he's missing a Petr Sykora), but overall, they saw what they'd been given and took advantage of it. It was nice to see the money line split up a little more (Kopecky especially played with a few different guys) but I still like the young line best together. I'd like to see Hudler and Lang on a line together at some point.
At any rate, I went out to this game dressed up and down in blue and white, sat in my fifth row seats right off of the faceoff circle in what was (miraculously) an entire row of Toronto fans, cheered my little heart out for Raycroft through period one, defended Tucker's honor against the guys next to me through period two...started cheering for Jiri Hudler around period three, bitched the Leafs out when they ran the poor little Czech over a few minutes from the end, and came home with a brand new Manny Legace jersey. And McDonald's wouldn't even give me vinegar for my fries. This blog will now go back to pretending the Toronto Maple Leafs do not exist until we are given reason not to.
See you at the Joe vs. the Kings on December 31st, I believe.