Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hockey Night in My Basement

So it was my birthday recently and I was able to celebrate it in the best way I could have ever imagined. I'm going to the Leafs home game at the ACC against Buffalo tomorrow night as a present from my girlfriend and out of excitement for the game she decided to create a faux-ACC in my basement for last night's game against Boston. She banished me to the living room sitting me in front of the TV with NHL 10 and a beer (Mill St. Tankhouse) while she went to set up her surprise for me. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on at his point but I had nothing to complain about, right? After about 40 minutes I was summoned to the basement and as I walked down the stairs I heard the old Hockey Night in Canada theme song playing. When I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked around my basement I saw what she had planned. She had put up banners showing where us to our seats for the night (the couch, or what she called the "Platinum Section"). She also made a fake-concession stand that had beer and hot dogs for our game dinner. Last but not least, the icing (hockey pun intended) on the cake was to see her standing between the couch and TV in a gorgeous blue Leafs jersey. Could life have gotten any better?
Well actually, it could. The Leafs won. She bought me a Leafs Xmas Stocking with different kinds of beer and chocolates and other delicious treats. She let me fill her ear with ridiculously obscure hockey facts. So pretty much, this was a post fully dedicated to showing off how great it is to 1) have a girlfriend who's a Leafs fan and 2) be able to say I'm going to see the Leafs live tomorrow.
How's that for a perfect Holiday Season!
Go Leafs Go

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Most Improved: Schenn, Blake Or(r) Kulemin?

Leafs Nation is obsessing over our newfound ability to win, especially with a statistic like 7-2-1 in our last 10. It's always nice to know we're winning but this might be a little premature knowing the teams we're playing. In the past 10 games, we've beaten Columbus, NY Islanders, Montreal, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Florida, and an unexpected overtime win over Washington. However, we've lost to Boston, NY Islanders (in OT) and Buffalo.
In the list of teams the Leafs have beaten, Washington is the anomaly being the only elite NHL team we've stolen a win from. Montreal is in a playoff spot and so are the Thrashers but neither are likely to make the playoffs come the end of the year. Washington, Buffalo and Boston are the three actually good teams we've played in this rush and we have that many loses. Washington was a win due to an incredible game by Beauchemin and White, while the other two teams beat us.
Buffalo and Boston are divisional teams which makes winning against them all the more important. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem likely at all. Furthermore, we play both teams 2 more times each in December alone. Also, in December the Leafs only have 2 more games against teams that are not in a playoff seed currently. Those teams are the Oilers and the Islanders. Instead, our Leafers are up against Buffalo twice, Boston twice, Washington, Pittsburgh, and the Pheonix Coyotes of Hamilton (...I wish).
What I'm saying is not that the Leafs should have been 10-0 in their last 10 games, but that they need to win games against great teams if they're going to make a run for the playoffs. they have a very hard month coming up and they need to steal some games from elite teams like they did against Washington.
What I hope for from the past 10 games is a confidence booster from players like Schenn, Kulemin, Blake and Colton Orr.
Schenn has been outstanding during this ten game stint, which is being shown by his plus/minus statistic. In the last 5 games alone, Schenn is a +6. He's had games with about 10 minutes of ice time, some with 15, and 2 with 19 minutes. Ron Wilson is beginning to trust the sophomore defender and it seems he's finally finding his confidence.
Kulemin's statistics look quite mediocre for the year, having only 8 points on the year and a -3 to show for it. However, last 5 games, he has 1G and 1A and is a +1. Still, seems pretty mediocre. What everyone's talking about however, is his defensive abilities. This kid has been stellar in his defensive play, throwing his weight around, fighting for the puck while being a disciplined power forward. His development is not close to being over but he's definitely a good player to have on this Leafs hockey team. The looks of some statistics can be awfully deceiving.
Our local MMA hockey player Colton Orr has certainly picked up his play defensively. The whole fourth line has been able to hem the opposing team into their own end and apply enough pressure that the opposing team doesn't pose a threat. In the game against Washington, Mayers, Wallin and Orr kept Ovechkin and his team in their zone for a couple shifts while the Leafs first line had time to rest. Orr has even potted a game-winning goal recently, tying his NY Rangers statistic last year with 1G all season. This 4th line fighter is only a -3 and has been much better in this 10 game stint.
Last but not least, the player that seems to be the most hated on all of the Maple Leafs, Jason Blake. I only put him on this list because he has finally found his scoring touch. In the last 5 games, Blake is a +6 and has 3G 1A on 20 shots. He's a +2 on this Leafs team and scored the winning goal last night against his old team. Everyone in Leafs nation has been hard on him this season but I still must disagree. Although he hasn't been scoring until recently, he has had incredible speed all year that penetrates the opposing zone and allows the team to set up in a dangerous way. He is also a surprisingly great physical presence behind the opposition's net. Look for him to keep up his scoring.
These are the players that have picked up their play the most in this previous 5-10 games and have hopefully really gained confidence from the Leafs' winning. Honourable mention to Vesa Toskala and Wayne Primeau.
Go Leafs Go

Since we're playing the Caps soon and I spoke of our win over them a while back, I thought I'd include my favourite Washington youtube clip. Ever.