Saturday, April 07, 2007

Last Days

After watching tonight's embarrassment vs. the Canadiens - a 6-5 win that was in doubt every moment of the game - I find it interesting how relevant my last post, written at the trade deadline, still is.

At that time, I commented that Ferguson would overpay for a veteran in his efforts to make the playoffs.

And as I predicted, he came through. The last piece of the puzzle selected by Ferguson arrived in the form of Yanic Perrault, who exploded for 5 points in 17 games during this stretch run, and averaged just over 9 minutes of ice per game. All this, in exchange for a 2nd round pick, and a decent defensive prospect in Brendan Bell. Chalk this one up as yet another trading failure for John Ferguson. But, what am I saying though, I can’t argue with the results. As long as the Islanders lose tomorrow, then Ferguson did his job. Mission accomplished, then - right?

I also commented that it didn’t matter how many goals the Leafs score, you aren’t going anywhere as long as you let in 5 goals per game. And what’s my enduring memory of tonight’s “classic” matchup between the Leafs and Habs? (I don’t care how many times Bob Cole commented on “what an amazing game” I was watching. It was a sloppy, inconsistent effort by two hockey teams that deserved their placement in the standings. This was the furthest thing from a good hockey game I’ve seen in a long time. Blown leads by both sides and no-shows by various superstars, these were two teams with the wheels flying off the bandwagon. The Leafs won? More like, Montreal lost. They just got lucky that Aubin faced a mere 6 shots after getting his first kick at game action in…oh, I don’t know. A long time ago, before Raycroft set his glorious, totally-legit club record for goaltending wins.)

Yeah, back to my enduring memory of the evening – seeing Raycroft trying not to cry as we cut to commercial. If Belfour had been pulled, he’d be struggling not to leap over the bench and strangle a pencil-neck like Maurice for daring to take him from his crease. Raycroft? Tonight, he looked like the playyard bully took his lunch. Like I mentioned over a month ago, I have no faith in this player. As he has all season, he let down the team tonight with various gaffes – one goal being so egregiously bad, that even Harry Neale was unable to sugarcoat it. An unscreened lob from the circle that left Raycroft staring into his glove – nope, puck’s not in there….

“That – is just a lousy goal!” Neale yelled. “In the NHL, you have to stop those!” You know it, Harry. Raycroft is the worst starting goalie I’ve seen play for the Leafs since Allan Bester. Remember him? He attempted suicide one night. No, really. He jumped in front of a bus! But it went between his legs.

Anyway, none of Raycroft’s kick-in-the-bag tendencies that are so damaging to a teams’ psyche have changed all season, so if he hasn’t found his game by now, he isn’t going to.

But for now, the Leafs are in the playoffs. After all the ups and downs, they pulled it together at just the right moment to pull it off. So long as the Islanders lose.

And if New York wins? Then the Leafs miss the playoffs with 91 points, one fewer than they accumulated last year, when they also missed the playoffs, and hung Quinn out to dry.

Happy Easter.

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