Wellwood, Steen Seek Streaks

December 19, 2006

Leafs sophomores Kyle Wellwood and Alexander Steen hit the ice tonight vs. Florida looking to extend a couple of streaks.

Wellwood is on a four-game points run (3g, 5a). With a point against the Panthers, he would tie his career-best streak of five straight games in the scoring column, set Oct. 8-14.

Meanwhile, Steen will look to continue his run of consecutive games without a goal, which currently stands at one. Steen, clearly taking his 2006-07 role as a bottom-six, penalty-killing forward to heart a year after potting 18 goals as a rookie, had a career-best 27 game goal-less streak snapped last Friday vs. Carolina.


Let’s see, Mahovlich-Lindros-Gartner…

December 18, 2006

Still time to chime in on ESPN’s “Top Line of All Time” voting, where you assemble trios from a pool of 50 forwards and submit them as “your top line of all-time.” Thankfully, the “experts” (ESPN’s word) that assembled the pool saved Leafs fans some headaches. No need to agonize over Darryl Sittler vs. Teeder Kennedy vs. Syl Apps at centre–they’re not among those offered up by The Worldwide Leader. (Thankfully, though, a formidable 1-2 punch of Doug Gilmour and Eric Lindros are there to satisfiy T.O. fans’ needs down the middle.)

Penguins fans have no such luck–ESPN is forcing them to choose between Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby on a top line.

And woe the poor fans of Le Grand Club. Habs backers must weigh a list that includes both Richard boys, Jean Beliveau, Howie Morenz, Dickie Moore, Guy LaFleur, Boom-Boom Geoffrion, Yvon Cournoyer, and even Bob Gainey. At least they don’t have to fret finding a slot for Guillaume Latendresse….

Eyeing Sittler’s 916

December 17, 2006

Mats Sundin garnered much coverage as he skated by Dave Keon on the Leafs’ all-time scoring list this week with a three-point night at Carolina Friday. (He also got career goal no. 508 in that game, surpassing Montreal centre Jean Beliveau on the all-time list and officially putting an end to that debate once and for all.)

Not to be out-done, Sundin’s linemate Kyle Wellwood continued his torrid pace. In Saturday’s 9-2 pasting of the Rangers, Wellwood potted a trio and added two helpers for a career-high five points, giving him an ice-melting 8 points (3g, 5a) in his last four games. That surge has pulled him to within 840 points of Darryl Sittler’s all-time Leafs mark of 916 career points. If he maintains his 2006-07 pace of .91 points per game and avoids major injuries, Wellwood would surpass Sittler sometime in the second half of the 2016-17 campaign.

For Those Keeping Track…

December 16, 2006

…tonight’s cakewalk over the Rangers and their gritty captain, Jaromir Jagr, makes three consecutive wins for the Buds against three of the last seven Stanley Cup winners. Fifth place and rising….

And how about that Chad Kilger? Tonight’s two-hit performance gives him a bone-rattling 19 hits and a pair of goals during the three-game march of domination. With Todd Bertuzzi gathering dust on the shelf like an unwanted library book, might it be time to start wondering if Kilger is evolving into the East’s next elite power forward?

An Honourable Honour

December 16, 2006

Bitter Leaf does a fine job of breaking down this dog’s breakfast of a post by Ken Campbell on the Globe and Mail’s hockey blog. Allow me to play third-man in against Mr. Campbell:

So, Kenny, the current Leafs regime made too big a deal when Pat Burns took in a game at the ACC Tuesday and had a mini-reunion with players from the ’93 near-Cup champ club, huh?

[T]he Maple Leafs…decided to fete them at every opportunity during stoppages in play as though they were Stanley Cup champions.

Since when are Stanley Cups a pre-requisite for pomp and circumstance at an NHL barn? Should the Leafs pull Darryl Sittler’s #27 or Borje Salming’s #21 from the rafters becase they never won, or even played for, a Cup?

Toronto fans never seem to get tired of being reminded of the times they almost came close to winning something, but it makes the organization look bush league when it does things like this.

Is the Jack Adams Trophy, which Burns earned for his 1992-93 efforts, not “something”? And is that “something” not worth noting during stoppages on a Tuesday night in December?

Let me state for the record that I expect such gestures out of classy organizations like Toronto. I mean, if the Leafs ever capture a post-expansion-era Hart Trophy or Calder Trophy (and, while we’re at it, the franchise’s first-ever Norris Trophy), and that trophy winner comes back to Toronto post-retirement to take in a tilt, I’d want his mug plastered all over the jumbotron whenever play was stopped.

Like Bitter Leaf says at the bottom of his post, there’s a team or two in every sport that fans love to hate. Dallas in the NFL, the Yankees and Red Sox in baseball, the Lakers in the NBA, and–so it seems–the Leafs in the NHL. Success breeds contempt, I guess, and in the case of this elite club, if you’ve won a crown in the last 40 years, it seems your franchise earnes a target along with the accolades.

Growing Stronger By The Game

December 16, 2006

Boy, the seven-game hiccup is growing small in the rear-view mirror, eh? All the Leafs have done in the last two games is beat the two most recent Stanley Cup winners, Tampa and Carolina. Talk about stretches that make a statement!!

Putting things in perspective, the Leafs have been consistently strong of late. Factoring out the seven-game losing streak that ended Tuesday, the Leafs’ 4-3 win at Carolina was its third victory in four games and 11th in 15 contests dating back to Oct. 28—a pace that has “post-season home ice” written all over it.

Strength Through Adversity, Leafs-Style

December 15, 2006

It’s no secret that nothing builds character and strength in professional sports like adversity. In climbing from the depths of their recent seven-game losing streak, the Leafs showed definite signs of prospering.

Not only did they end the streak with a stirring, 5-4 come-from-behind win against the Tampa Bay Lighting (a team just two seasons removed from winning the Cup), but they did it by correcting a notable shortcoming. Heading into Tuesday’s showdown with the Bolts, the Leafs were struggling a bit late in games. In their five previous games, the Leafs were out-scored 17-1 in third periods. According to Elias, it is the first time an NHL team was out-scored by at least 16 goals in the third period over a five-game span.

But rather than hang their heads, our Buds did what many long-time fans have come to expect: they bounced back strong. Not only did they out-score Tampa Bay in the third period Tuesday, but they doubled their production from the previous five games, out-scoring the Lightning 2-1.

Don’t be surprised if, following a long playoff run this spring, Coach Paul Maurice and the players point to this impressive showing of courage as the point at which Toronto’s 2006-07 season took off.