Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ottawa 7 Toronto 0

THE GOOD:

Almost everything. The Sens managed to bounce back in a big way after Thursday night’s embarrassing effort versus the Ducks to once again trounce the Maple Leafs. As far as the game, picking out “The Bad’s” was difficult, because frankly Ottawa was terrific. They scored the first goal, setting the tone early, and didn’t take their foot of Toronto’s throat until the result was obvious. Offensively, the Senators were passing the puck as well as I’ve seen in some time. They did a good shot of getting shots on net and sustaining pressure. Ottawa won almost all the battles along the boards, outmuscling Toronto at nearly as every turn. In the past, Toronto has always set the physical tone of the game, and if we were lucky, Ottawa would respond. Not on this night. It was Ottawa mostly initiating the physicality, and Toronto had little answer. In their own end, the Sens were spectacular, giving the Leafs little room to get back into the game with their tight coverage and relentless backchecking from the forward group. In short, they played wonderfully.

THE BAD:

The Battle Of Ontario being so one-sided. No one loves seeing the Leafs get destroyed than me, but I also must admit to being somewhat disappointed that this once great rivalry has diminished into this. It seems like gone are the days when the games were competitive, intense, and entertaining to hockey fans in general, not just people who cheer for the Senators.

The powerplay. It’s amazing that Ottawa was able to light up the Leafs so much with a powerplay that was as ineffective as it was. But truth be told, I’m reaching somewhat, because even though the Senators were unable to score a goal with the man advantage, they were very strong as far as shots on goal, moving the puck, and creating traffic in front of Ed Belfour. It just so happened that Belfour was Toronto’s best penalty killer, as he made save after save, keeping the Leafs in a game they otherwise had no business still being in.

THE OPPOSITION:

The last time the Leafs came into Ottawa and got slaughtered on national TV, after gloating a little, I warned Leafs fans to put away the razors and leave their wrists alone for the time being because the score was not indicative of the game. The same cannot be said this time.

The 7-0 tally is very much representative of how one-sided this game was, and in truth, it shouldn’t been much worse, as Ed Belfour saved the Leafs bacon throughout the game. It’s no coincidence then that Belfour was perhaps the lone Leaf who, right to the end, was still competing. It was unfortunate that he had to withstand this abysmal effort in front of him.

There’s no way to spin this game for the Buds in any other way but this: they were brutal. Toronto was outchanced, outworked, overpowered, and out of their league.

Coming into the game, though I figured Ottawa would end up the victors, I was more concerned than I was before any of the other games this season, and the reason being (besides Ottawa’s piss poor performance against Anaheim) that Toronto has historically been at their most potent when their backs are against the wall. Certainly this has been the case since Pat Quinn took over. They always a never-say-die attitude and even in defeat, you could rarely say it was because of a lack of effort and/or desire.

Are those days over? It sure looks like it. Because this was a team who looked defeated and deflated quite early into the game, when, scorewise, it was still within reach. Earlier in the season, in the second game between these two teams , when down two goals, Toronto were able to rally back, score three, and force Ottawa to even the score to send it into overtime. At no point in this game did this look like it was possible.

I don’t usually agree with Don Cherry on anything, but I felt like he made an interesting point in the post game wrap-up. If you’re going to lose to your biggest rival badly, at least made a mark of some sort. This doesn’t mean gooning it up or running the goalie, but somehow making your presence felt. Whether it was through scrappy but not over the line play or making the other team pay a physical price with hits, it’s a legitimate thought.

The Leafs brought none of this, and only manned up and showed some intensity when the game was literally over, as after the buzzer some Leafs were angered that Chris Neil pushed Nik Antropov around. If these same players had displayed this kind of emotion two hours earlier, maybe the score would’ve been more flattering to them.

Now, it’s true Toronto came into this game horribly undermanned, without Bryan McCabe, Eric Lindros, and Darcy Tucker, and so that has to be taken into consideration, but would those three have made enough of a difference that the Leafs would’ve won? McCabe is a great powerplay point man, and Toronto’s PP was not good, so that would’ve helped. Lindros has always been tough on the Sens, regardless of what sweater he’s wearing. And you know Tucker would’ve likely showed some of the aforementioned missing passion. But I find it hard to believe it would’ve been enough.

Don’t panic yet, but be concerned. Very concerned. The “blow it all up” sentiment, though understandable, is a little overdramatic, but changes may have to be made because this team hasn’t looked like a playoff team, let alone a contender, for some time now, and in Toronto, that’s not acceptable.

UP NEXT:

Toronto, again. It will be very intriguing to see how the Leafs respond to this loss. They’re a proud group with many veterans. Even if they’re on the road and somewhat sheltered, the players and coaches will still hear about the outrage currently ongoing in Leaf Nation. They’ll hear about the anger on the post game call in shows and I’m sure a few of the newspaper articles will make their way in front of them before game time.

They’ll want redemption. In that way, for them, it’s almost ideal that they play Ottawa so soon. They have an opportunity to rectify the loss against the very team who humiliated them. We’ll see what this team is made of.

During the HNIC broadcast, Harry Neale speculated that the reason Quinn didn’t pull Belfour was because he planned on starting Michael Telqvist on Monday and didn’t want his confidence shattered even a little by being part of this disaster. I realize Telqvist has been surprisingly solid as of late, but if Ottawa comes with a game similar to this one, he’ll be blown out of the water.

2 Comments:

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, I wonder why "david johnson" didnt include any of his totally unbiased comments to this post?

 
At 11:03 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

What do you want me to write? The Leafs were horrible. They played horrible. Although the Senators played well, pretty much every goal was a direct result of a Leaf mistake or lazy effort. Of the three blowouts at the hands of the Senators, the Leafs looked the worst in this one. The first two could be blamed significantly on poor goaltending by Belfour. In Saturday's game although Belfour could have, and maybe should have, stopped some of those goals it was the team in front of him that let him down. Expect to see a better game from the Leafs tonight and if Tellqvist is in goal, expect to see better goaltending. With the Leafs injuries I am not sure that will be enough to win but maybe keep it closer (think 4-2 type score).

 

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