Monday, 21 January 2013

Leafs Line - Orr Opens Up the Home Opener

Might as well start with the highlight right?

Orr Cleans House:

If you saw the game, you'll no doubt know what's coming. If you DIDN'T see the game, you missed one hell of a display of what could be called nothing other than 'truculence' from the Toronto Maple Leafs' Colton Orr who stood up to Buffalo's 6'8'', 270lb John Scott.

Orr's no small fry but it looks like David v. Goliath here.
Some of you might have followed Orr from years passed, and you'll likely know about his history with concussion problems and so, as you'll hear in the video, for him to make it through a fight much less to take the other fighter to a knee, and much less for that fighter to be John Scott... Well, it's a pretty big 'welcome home' to the ACC for him to pull that off. In any case, here's the video. Well done Colton, it's good to have you back.
Unfortunately, though this had the majority of the sold-out crowd on its feet, the Leafs were unable to capitalize on any of the energy generated. Here's the rest of a rather sad story.

Joffrey Lupul: Gets an 'A' for Effort, and Results

Everyone who followed the Leafs last year knows about the record season posted by Lupul. the guy was dynamite, he was the key to unlocking a peak-efficiency Phil Kessel, and I spent the entire year posting the question "Why hasn't someone sewn the extra 'C' or 'A' onto his jersey yet. Finally, my prayers have been answered.

Joffrey Lupul took to the ice last night, having signed a tidy 26.25 million dollar, 5-year contract, with the 'A' on his chest (yes he was sporting it against the Habs, but this is his homecoming) and I couldn't be happier. He's put in a lot of hard work to get where he is now, and the results speak for themselves... Well not really but close enough. He had a point-per-game season last year, beat back surgery and a resultant blood infection before coming to the Leafs, and he's become a legitimate top-line left winger.

Good for you Joffrey, good for you!

First Period: Chances Gone to Waste

As I sat watching it, I thought the game had been handed to the Leafs on a blue and white platter. Buffalo was taking penalties left, right and center, the Toronto 3rd line started the game with great forechecking - forcing turnovers in Buffalo's end, and the first line was putting rounds down range resulting in Buffalo being outshot 13-5 in the first period alone. Yup, it looked like a guaranteed cakewalk for Toronto and then they were given the gift of a two-man advantage lasting 1:23. At this point I, and likely every fan in the building was thinking "Oh boy! It's just a matter of seconds until Toronto opens up the scoring" but we were sorely disappointed. The 5-on-3 passes, Buffalo manges yet another penalty late in the existing charges and has to sit a third man in the penalty box giving the Leafs an even more extended opportunity and yet they still managed to go scoreless.

Beyond this the Leafs were their normal self, and the lack of practice preceding the start of this shortened season was extremely evident. Passes were falling short or being sent too far almost all night, there was an easily discernible lack of cohesion amongst the players... All-in-all although they managed to out-shoot the Sabres, they really managed to lose the period more than Buffalo won it.

Buffalo DID score at 8:51 of the first period on a tip-in by Hodgson from Ehrhoff and Pominville and not only was it an odd last-second deflection off what appeared to be the inside of Hodgson's arm, but it came through traffic and went past a completely screened Scrivens. I'm not making any excuses for the guy, none need be made as his goaltending was solid however the team really let him down on their side of the blue line.

Rotten Refs:

It needs to be pointed out that the refs really turned on Toronto after this point. Tyler Myers leaving the penalty box early was allowed to slide, Leaf goaltender Ben Scrivens -the only reason the Leafs managed to stay in the game at all- was run-over by a Buffalo player without a call, and a number of hooks, trips, and a poor call of goaltender interference against Phil Kessel later and Toronto was struggling to keep out of the penalty box, much less in the game.

Second Period: Definite Double Standard

More chances went spoiled in the 2nd period, but Toronto did manage to kill off a penalty early. Just after the penalty kill, Kessel flubs a great chance at a goal, and shortly after runs into Ryan Miller which earned them another penalty. I have to point out that in this case, Kessel was looking to the point for a shot, being jostled by a Buffalo player, and Miller moved up to be in behind Kessel as he came past the crease. Was it a case of goaltender interference? Not by my books but unfortunately I'm not the one officiating these games. It was much more innocent than when Hesch ran over Scrivens without another soul around him, but everyone and their mother seemed to shit a collective brick when Kessel bumped Miller "with Buffalo's history and Miller's concussion problems last year" piped the colour commentators and the 1st intermission Sportsnet panel.

Honestly folks, if you want to see a goalie stopped by a head-hit, you need look no further than the Leaf bench. Reimer went his second straight game without starting, and this after he came to the team like God's rookie gift to Toronto goaltending. He was doing splendidly until hits from Ottawa's Folino and Montreal's Brian Gionta rattled his cage and scrambled his eggs for the rest of the season. Since then Reimer's never been the same man on the ice and yet everyone's willing to cry over Miller... I'm just sayin' is all.

Buffalo scored again to make it a 2-0 hockey game.

Great Expectations: Mike Kostka

Now here's a guy who knows his job, and gets it done. Mike Kostka, who's finally been given his chance at the big-time after years in the Marlies, has had two great showings in the first games of this shortened season putting up huge on-ice minutes and doing a lot with them. For some reason people seem overly quick to commend Dion Phaneuf for putting in big minutes on the ice but frankly, he hasn't done shit-all with what he's been given. to illustrate my point, here's an illustration!

Notice the difference?
On the left if a very rough rendering of how most players look at the opposing net. they look past the goaltender, aiming at the open pockets around him where they have a shot at scoring a goal, and the pipes and crossbar only apply to tell them the boundaries, beyond which is ignored.

On the right however, is how scientists believe Dion Phaneuf sees the opposing net, this time with Ryan Miller clearly visible, and nothing else but the goalposts and crossbar factor into the image processed by his brain. It is still a medical mystery as to why Phaneuf's brain interprets information differently than most shooters though he may just really have a hatred for goaltenders, and the colour red. Who knows?

The point here is that Phaneuf damned near manages to break the bloody crossbar at least once a a game and does little else. I'm pretty sure I've even seen him dressed in orange to serve as a pylon during practices... Okay, that's enough against him. Maybe he'll pick up his game but it just feels as though the pace it too quick for him.

Third Period: At Least it was Interesting

Not much went on the in 3rd. Right near the end Toronto's Nazem Kadri puts his second goal in the net in as many games, and brings the Leafs back into the game... With around 2 minutes left to play, so nothing much was made of the last-minute attempt.

The fans were given a show, albeit a disappointing end, Ryan Miller stole the game for Buffalo along with his cohorts on the officiating team and Toronto's lost it's first game which means their season has ACTUALLY begun because we all know a season can't be considered legitimate until the Leafs blow it at home... Which usually isn't long of a wait.

Enjoy your swim, and sticks on the ice folks!

Joshua J. Taylor

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