Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A TOV guide to the game in Texas

Howdy faithful remnant! Here at TOV we have an exciting announcement. Well, it is probably not so exciting for you, but it is quite exciting for us. Our darling leafbuds just got their first dewy win of the season. By our estimation, we here at TOV feel that this next game is a pretty critical game. Will the Leafs continue their superior play and gain momentum as the season goes on--hopefully even reaching a 7-7-1 record? Or will we sink back to old habits and pinch out another stinker?

Well, this next game in Texas will tell us! And, being the passionate fans that we are, we here at TOV are waking up early tomorrow, leaving on a jet plane and headin' on down to the Big D y'all! That's right, TOV will be at the game!

So we thought that it would be fun to post a lil "watch for this at the game tomorrow" blog.

1. During the National Anthem, when they sing the American one and when they get to the line "whose broad stripes and bright..." the whole crowd at the AA Arena will scream STARS! at the top of their lungs, then turn and high five and chest bump and then continue the solemn tradition of anthem watching. Chances are I will too, because, we here at TOV seize every opportunity to be loud and boisterous and chest bump. Even if it is for the other team. But we don't mind a little rival inclusionary practices.

However, we need to yell something out during the Canadian National anthem. Like "with glowing hearts, we see thee rise, the true North Strong OUR LEAFS!" or "we stand on guard for Leafs" or "true patriot love in all thy CLARK'S command." Let's band together and getterdone.

2. The Banger. Every game right behind the net on the left side (so when you are watching the game, when the flow of play is heading to the left) there is a guy, who is ALWAYS there (at least when I watch/have been at games). He is usually wearing a tan jacket, is about 24 years old, 150lbs soaking wet and he throws himself against the boards on every save, every shot and every big hit. And the boards are right by a mike so you at home will be able to hear BANG BANG BANG every time something happens in that end. On this video here you can distinctly hear the bangs and then see the blurry tan boy himself stand up and start a-bangin. So watch for that; it's fun!

Oh, our pretty blond Texas corespondent is informing us that his name is Nick, he's had season tix forever, that she is his sisters friend on facebook and that Nick "is a lil weird that way." So hopefully Nick has nothing to bang about tomorrow, except the quiet taps of losing sadness.

3. ME! Yes, you've asked for it and we deliver. Tomorrow you will be able to see me, Mr. TOV himself cheering on his boys at the game. On the same side of the arena as Nick, the Pretty Blond Texas Correspondent's (PBTC) family has season tickets. From the goal if you go about 12 row straight back and then about 6 or 7 seats towards the camera you will see a handsome fellow (artists rendering) wearing a Leafs jersey (Schenn!) in a sea of black, green and white--just a popcorn-bag's throw from Nick. I will either be standing, holding my hands aloft as if I am drinking in the sweet glory of a win, or I'll be eating pizza. With Dr. Pepper. (You know that they make the stuff there!?)

So faithful remnant, while you watch the game, look for me and our fevered fan Nick. It'll be like you came to Texas with me! Because Barilkosphere, you see....I love you.

Ok. No more foolish emotion. Gird up your loins with stoic resolve! A second win awaits! And by the modern marvel of the "aeroplane" I will be there to represent our lil bloggy community. Airport cowboy hats in snow globes for all!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ok, settle down people

We understand the panic; we really do. But come'on faithful remnant, do you really think that a defense of Kaberle, Komi, Schenn, White and Beauch are currently playing to their potential? That this is all they can give? That they have peaked as defensive players? No, you don't believe that. You believe that they will gel as a unit and that shots will be blocked and opposing players will be squished at appropriate times and the GAA will go down.

Do we need goals? Sure. We need players to pot some. It'd be nice to see Stempniak score, but right now he's a 30-year-old deck chair (all wood, no finish). Grabs seems to have missed the memo that he has line-mates and people aren't driving to the net to get some gross goals. But when you are 0-2 at the end of every period, you try to be a hero every time you cross the blueline. Not cool. We seriously need to win some 2-1 1-0, 3-2 games.

And, freaked-out-nation, we will. We'll be fine. We'll get a 4-5 game win streak in here in a few weeks. You watch. The Rags will get a losing streak of a few games in the next little bit and all of a sudden the Leafs are in the middle of the pack. This is a good thing for the lil smurfs to go through right now--it'll put them in their place. "Wilson is the boss, Burke controls my fate and I am but a humble player only worrying about my life 30 seconds at a time." What will this adversity also do? It'll find us a Captain and reveal to us those who don't buy into the team mentality. I say we bench the detractors or trade em or waive em and let Bozak, Stalberg and Poni be the second line with Grabs, Hags and Lemon (to be replaced by Kessel) on the top.

We're all so worried about the draft pick. It astounds us here at TOV that we are that worried about this intangible thing that we have no idea where it will fall (and chances are it'll be between a 12-17th overall pick) but we aren't excited about other intangibles like "hey, Stemp can move the puck, but can't finish. Wonder if he will work magic with Kessel?" or "wow. Jonas is back from injury and is continuing his .930ish save %. Wicked." How can we focus on the intangibles of a year away and forget the intangibles of two weeks from now?

No friends, Ron Wilson's "reset" is under way and I am sure that this Saturday we will see a spirited game. Especially since the Rags gave us an epic beat down last week.

So let June worry about June. I guarantee you Peter Chiarelli is not even thinking about the draft picks. In fact, he is probably still pissed that that was the best deal out for him.

So cheer on your boys, remember that we have years of Schenn, Kadri, Bozak, Kessel, Stalberg and others ahead of us. Years! In the grand scheme of things this is the perfect time for them to learn about brutal losing streaks and getting out of them. I wouldn't want them to learn about this in 2 years when we are in some race for a better playoff spot during our perfect open-window-time and we decide then that it is a good time to drop 6 games. It's kinda like the stock market--there is money to be made in both a bull and bear market. (But you gotta understand which one you are in.) But a lack of long-term vision will kill ya.

Hit up the Licbo, grab some expensive, snobby-Bay-Street-beer (we are, after all, the Lower Bowl Brokers) get a cigar or two and some Scotch for the Satellite Hot Stove session and laugh at the days to come. We are where we are supposed to be--learning under fire.

Keep the faith, and for the love of Truth and Goodness, stop listening to the mittenstringers who are saying that this opening 20 game stretch is our Waterloo.


-Hockey Central at noon is reporting that there is a chance Mike VR could be shut down for the season due to that wonky knee. Brutal. Guess we wont be trading a d-man any time soon.

-Also reporting that Burkie came into the room at practice. No word on what was said, but we can surely speculate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The worst part about losing

The worst part of losing is not that our hearts are filled with sorrow, or seeing Ron Wilson look like someone shot his dog in the postgame presser, or watching a goalie we traded a first rounder for totally bomb as a professional NHL player.

No, the worst thing that happens to Leaf fans when we are losing is having to read Howard Berger's gleeful I-told-you-so articles (when he actually never really told-us-so. He, if you recall, was in the 'the Leafs have a much improved defense' camp.)

I actually find his writing to be quite offensive. We have a lot of fun here at TOV and we try our hardest to bring you witty, humorous commentary on all things Leafs related (without resorting to name calling or the lowest common denominator of blaming the fans; it ain't my fault) but this type of small-minded bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you journalism that Howard Berger displays is only a thin veil trying to cover the fact that he doesn't actually have anything of worth or import to relay to his dwindling readership.
"I'm just speaking my mind. I'm just telling it like it is" are always the cries of the man who realizes that he has nothing to build up with his words. It is incredibly difficult to write something that doesn't take the easy way out (ie being "controversial" or "being a maverick" or whatever.) It is very hard to be constantly creative in ones writings. But that cannot be an excuse to produce something that is blatantly disrespectful to a vast majority of hockey fans.

It's bad writing, cheap tricks and it's wrong. Constantly wrong. And the more articles like this that he publishes, the bigger a problem it becomes.

But what is the justification? Comment numbers. Readership. Words of value and creativity don't mean anything anymore unless you can get 400 angry comments after your post.

So we here at TOV promise to continue our unique brand of Leafs commentary and we will never, ever resort to cheap tricks.

Keep the faith, remnant!

Breaking news: Looks like Toskala is out with an injury. Reimer has been called from the Marlies (along with Bozak).

Ch-ch-ch changes!

Question remains: who plays goal for the baby leafs? In NHL10 a backup goalie just generates out of thin air. Modig, where are you?

In all seriousness, JoeyMac will get the start (and the win) and don't be surprised if this "injury" to Toskala keeps him out....forever! Well...on this team anyway.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Wallace Factor

Feeling lost? Feeling frightened and alone? Do you both hate Sidney Crosby and hope that nothing at all happens physically to him before February? Faithful remnant, did you awake this beautiful crisp fall day in the Big Smoke only to remember your crushing disappointment from last night. Have you lost all hope? Do you have image of Boston standing at the podium making a 4th overall draft choice selection only to then read a newspaper and have Berger/Cox tell you how much a loser you are for being a fan of a team you've always been a fan of?

Is all hope lost? Is this to be our season?

Have I taught you nothing, faithful remnant? Put on your cold cloaks of pure rationality and lets reason through these first couple of games together.

From our standpoint the Leafs are lacking two major components that any successful hockey team needs. They are two intangible things that any team, or army or any group of men united in a common goal need.

But first, what we do have: we have a talented team. Players are growing up and finding their stride as actual NHL players. Stajan has looked good--something we don't really say here around TOV. Stempniak really looks good. He's starting to do that cut-in-from-the-half-boards-to-the-slot move that he did a lot in St Louis that worked so well for him. He's getting chances and soon enough people will be getting his rebounds if he doesn't pot them himself. Kulemin looks good and Whitey is starting to look like a steal. There's talent here and there is talent in the pipeline waiting for their shot. Oh yeah....and Phil Kessel; one of the best players his age.

Now, the team on paper look good. The Spanish Armada on paper looked good too. So too did the Senators last year.

No, there is something else missing--these two alluded to factors.

A. Emotional lift. The team has been deflated by two things this young season. 1: we don't score first and start playing catch-up. 2: Soft goals suck the wind out of our sails. We are not normally the types to blame one specific person for these early season ills, but truth be told: Toskala has not played to the caliber of an NHL goalie. Sure, we can talk all we want about the defense giving up shots or that "that was just the perfect shot--below the blocker and over the pads" and whathaveyou, but you as a tender need to gauge the emotion of the game and have your brain saying "you have to save this shot for the good of the team right now" match up with your muscular-memory reflexes. Basically, you need to focus and battle. Toskala is not battling at all. He is deep in his net and--as first-shot-first-goals can attribute to--he is shell shocked. He is scared and the fear is palpable even through a tv screen--we can't imagine what it is like on the bench. Honestly, he will sink us if we let him. Dude needs some sort of spiritual retreat or something.

B: emotion from scoring timely goals. When we make a big push and cycle in their end we need to finish it off when the other team is tired and playing sloppy. We need killers! We need people who smell blood on the ice and move to finish it off.

Do we have remedies waiting in the wings? Do we have a battler? Do we have someone who has the eyes of a killer?
Do we have someone who has a nose for the net (maybe a really big nose?) As you can see, we here at TOV think we have the pieces that are missing for this first problem of emotion. Toskala is/was good on paper, but Joey MacDonald has battled his whole career. Toskala is a cool chilled out brohime but Jonas Gustavsson says things like "I will be a number one goalie if it one week, one month, one year, or ten years." He wants it and he can smell that he can take it from Toskala. The Monster moves out of his crease looking like he is going to eat the forward coming towards him. Toskala looks...well....small. He backs into the net, goes down on the shooters wind-up and can't make a stop or be in position for the rebound. It is 100% mental right now and he needs to get away for a while. Like, on the bench. :)

If Kessel can score he can take the pressure off guys who have no business trying to. Every time Mitchell touches the ice his first thought should be "who can I kill?" Honestly. He does not need to go on the ice and say "can I generate a chance?" He needs to squish people and go back to the bench and squish people again. And last night, Healy was right--we need to squish their stars, not their fourth line guys. Kessel will allow the bottom six to do more bottom six things. That is, if Kessel can bring offense which we are sure he can.

This brings us to our second factor that is needed and we here at TOV call it The Wallace Factor. Yes. We need a Captain. And not Kaberle. Kaberle is a great great player--one of the best Dmen ever for the blue and white, but he's not our Captain. We need someone who, when the come to the dressing room and see that sacred white 9-point in a sea of blue on their chest, their goosed-bumped arms remind them that they are part of something bigger than themselves. We need a man who longs to see his own shed blood fall on his jersey from a blocked shot. We need a man who dreams about the red glow of the lamp, the split second of silence and then the roar of us, the true fans. We need a man who can stir up the passions of the younger men on the team and have them rather die than see their goalie showered in spiteful snowjobs. We need someone who knows that a shameful win is more detrimental to a season than a proud loss where the other team is bloodied and happy that it is over. Honor. Pride. Glory. All the cliches are true and we need them in spades.

We don't care who it is. If Komi is the man, do it. If Schenn is ready, go for it. If bouncing-bald-baby Stajan will paint his face blue and throw himself headfirst into the oppositions bench, then call the seamstress and tell her to bring her C's. But we cannot hope to win without a Wallace. Wilson can only do so much. We need someone to actually buy into Wilson's Hanta Yo speech and have his peers see it and aspire to it in their own game.

And we need it now, before this season gets any older.