Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leafs Need to Open the Check Book

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment are often accused of being tight-fisted with their wallets, or more accurately spending sums from their seemingly endless coffers foolishly.

The Leafs don't need cheques, they need checkers. One would think a team that routinely ices 11 fourth liners should have no trouble doing just that; one would be wrong. There's a difference between a true checking line and run of the mill, third and fourth line grinders.

Players like Pohl, Earl, and Tucker are a dime a dozen. Players like Berg, Zezel, and Osborne were a dime a dozen in their day. Bill Berg was a pest extraordinaire; unlike enforcers he was smart defensively and had some speed. Peter Zezel, a top scorer in junior, spent hours studying linesman and other centres en route to becoming a premiere faceoff man. The fact he was harder to move than an ox due to his soccer legs helped. Mark Osborne was also a bit of a pest, but he could draw penalties as easily as he took them. He had more hits than a sailor on shore leave.

Individually, those players were not spectacular. The genius was in putting them together and giving them a common goal. The current Leafs have the players, all they need is the plan, the mission, the coach, the will and the genius.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Crunch@Marlies Game 2/Period 1

I'm live from Ricoh Coliseum where the Crunch lead 1-0 after 20 minutes in Game 2 of their playoff series with the Marlies. Penalties posed pesky problems for Toronto from the start of the game. With Walser and Battaglia both in the box, Zenon Konopka scored for the Crunch@2:32, assists to Brassard and Westcott. Toronto’s outshot the Crunch 14-10 but can’t bury the biscuit in the basket. Signing off live from Ricoh,Syracuse 1 Toronto 0 heading into the second.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Syracuse Crunch @ Toronto Marlies Game 1-Report 2

Halfway through the second period at Ricoh Coliseum Syracuse leads the Marlies 3-0. It’s been another very chippy period but with fewer penalties than the first frame. Right now, Syracuse’s David Cullen is in the sin bin…make that 3-1! David Ling has just put the Marlies on the board at 13:26! Assists to Jiri Tlusty and Bates Battaglia.

Syracuse Crunch @ Toronto Marlies Game 1

The Marlies are down 2 – nothing at the end of a very feisty first period. 3 seconds into the game, the puck barely out of the face off circle, when the Crunch’s Zenon Konopka and Toronto’s Colin Murphy dropped the gloves. Derek McKenzie scored @ 1:40 and Clay Wilson @ 11:04. Toronto had some good chances, including two by Bates Battaglia, whose goal won game 7 against San Antonio.

Toronto’s Kyle Rogers and Derek Dorsett of the Crunch finished the first as it began – with fisticuffs

Franzen Cleans Up Big Time

Johan Franzen could easily get a second career with Molly Maid after cleaning house last night. His hat trick in Detroit’s 8-2 white wash swept the Avs out of the 2008 playoffs; it also cleared the dust from Gordie Howe’s now former record of 8 goals in a playoff series. Franzen’s 9 goals in the series equalled Colorado’s combined scoring total.

This is the second time in the 2007-2008 season the 28 year old Swede has shattered one of Mr. Hockey’s records. Franzen notched his sixth game winning goal of the season in March, topping Howe’s benchmark set in 1952. He is also the first player since Jari Kurri in 1985 to get two hat tricks in a series.

When asked how he felt about surpassing another Howe achievement, Franzen quipped “I didn’t follow the game back then.” Detroit’s head coach, Mike Babcock added “If you’re going to break records, you might as well break Gordie Howe’s”

Somewhat lost in the hoopla surrounding Franzen’s achievements were the performances of fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and Mikael Samuelsson. They both netted two goals. Tomas Holmstrom’s single score rounded out the scoring – all the Wings goals came from Swedish players.

This series marked a departure from the heated and close battles between the Avs and Red Wings in the 90s. Zetterberg didn’t feel bad about it: “I won’t apologize for beating them like this,” “I know they’ll came back at us next year.”

Joe Sakic, the Avs fabled Burnaby Joe may not return. The 38 year old, 20 year NHL veteran is contemplating retirement if his health doesn’t hold up. He missed 38 games this season and played this series with tears in both groins. Sakic is tied with Leaf fan favourite Doug Gilmour for seventh place in all time NHL playoff points with 188.

Colorado was hit hard with injuries. Ryan Smith, Paul Stastny, Marek Svatos all missed games.