Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Introducing: The Sjo-Stopper

Once again, apologies for the lack of posts lately. Where I last left off, there was no Phaneuf, no Sjostrom, no Giguere and to put it quite frankly, no Luke Schenn or Rickard Wallin. Since the two trades involving the Calgary Flames and the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, there has been a transformation of spirit, hitting, and skill taking over the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room. When I was informed of the trade I was acting as the lead member of the FLQ, Jacques Rose in the Montreal Model UN reconstruction of the Canadian Cabinet during the October Crisis. I was informed of the new trade intel via blackberry from a friend of mine. It has now been just over a week since the team changing trade and this is how I see the team at this point.

Sjostrom - the Bone proclaimed new nicknamed "Sjo-Stopper" was quite an underrated pick up for the Leafs. His presence seems to have excited Rickard Wallin - since the trade they have both been on fire. I'm hoping the two of them together on the PK will actually turn out to be a success. All of the players we received in the trades have in some way excited someone else on the team. Wallin is no longer a healthy scratch caliber player (Well, I used to think he would be a healthy scratch for the Marlies). He has finally been playing well not only defensively but also with strength low in the corners of the offensive zone.

Schenn - right now his improvement is in a league of its own. He's been playing better and better throughout the year however that's not saying much since he wasn't NHL material at the beginning of the season. Now however, he's hitting, shooting, and talking on the bench like a future captain should. The great thing about Toronto media is that when you play well, boy do they play it up. Especially with Luke Schenn since he is such a top prospect for the Leafs future.

Kadri - last night was probably the most excited I've ever been to sit in front of the tube for a game. Watching him play his first shift and spring Stalberg on a breakaway was an incredible feeling. However, the next shift, the kid got hit hard in our defensive corner. After that, he was no longer really a threat. When he was going up against their defensemen in battles for the puck, I was genuinely scared for his health. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Kadri needs to take a couple pages out of Jason Blake's books and learn to play with speed but still avoid the hits.

Kessel and Bozak - like I said in my previous post, Kessel's defensive faults drive me up the wall but how can I complain when he puts up numbers like 7 points in his last 3 games and 10 in his last 5? Although he runs away from any hit coming towards him, he still has that shoot-first mentality that compels him to rip the shot whether or not he even has his equilibrium. Phil shoots from no matter what position; he just likes to score goals. Another positive is his willingness to make that pass when there are too many people covering him - cue Bozak. Bozak has been in the right place at the right time a lot this season. With 11 points in his 15 games up in the show, the two of them make good linemates. Also, with 28 hits in his 15 games, he offers a physical presence to the Leafs' first line that opens up room for Kessel. With Poni's size on the other wing, the line has been quite strong in the few games it's been together.

If these factors, along with the strong play by in net Giguere continues, the Leafs might actually have the opportunity to close the gap between them and...well...not last place. Our largest difficulty this season has been our penalty kill and if the Wallin-Sjostrom tandem can come together as a shut-down pairing then Burkie's trades will have been a roaring success this late in the season.

Let's hope for the best,

I decided to show the least interesting interview... ever.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I'm surprised with Sjostrom too.

I read your profile and noticed that you are a Leaf fan in Montreal. I am a Torontonian that will be moving to Montreal this year. Although I am excited for the move I'm a bit down about the hockey scene.

Do you have any tips?

Bone said...

Well, to be completely honest there's quite an adjustment process as a Leafs fan moving to Montreal.
1) The one thing that everyone knows about Habs fans is that they're obnoxious. That means you have to beat them at their own game to win their fanatical respect. For me, I like to go to a bar during the Leafs-Habs games in my Tucker jersey and chant "Komi! Komi! Komi" when he fights. However, there is a fine line here - don't be an aggressive fan, meaning don't yell at the mob of Habs fans in the bar but instead yell at the TV. That way, you show your love for the Leafs, you still get to be an obnoxious fan, but you won't get your head beaten in.
2) For the most part, say goodbye to watching televised Leafs games. There are a number of good streaming sites around that can be helpful. Habs games are on CBC on Saturday nights and only recently have they stopped blacking out games on Sportsnet Ontario. That means, notwithstanding TSN and Sportsnet Ontario games, get used to staring at your computer screen for a long time.

Pretty much, don't be down about the hockey scene. You may be leaving the Leafs Home Base but Montreal is one of the greatest hockey cities in the world... second to Toronto of course. Also, a lot of Habs fans will join together with you to celebrate our mutual hate of the Sens. ("Sens Army", what were they thinking??)