Who will be the next Leaf to score at the Air Canada Centre?
Nik Antropov? Niklas Hagman? John Tavares?
The way the Maple Leafs are serving up doughnuts at home, and plummeting in the standings, Toronto might be misfiring just enough to eventually draft the league's next potential offensive star.
1-1 in must win games against former players is acceptable for a terrible team. 2-0 would have been great but what were we really expecting? However, not scoring at home is a habit they better get out of quickly. Well, actually, there is only one more home game where they absolutely have to score early and often and win: February 21st. God help them, I'll be in the lower bowl and able to attack the bench if they play like they have against the Predators and the Hurricanes.
Tomas Kaberle thoughtlessly launched a puck into the stands, taking a delay of game penalty that set up Carolina's first goal, a power-play marker by Joe Corvo. Then, in the dying seconds of that middle frame, Ponikarovsky turned the puck over at his own blue line. Matt Cullen grabbed that gift, fired a pass to Chad LaRose at the edge of the crease and he potted a morale-crusher, making it 2-0 with five seconds remaining.
Wilson called them "inexcusable" mistakes.
I know that reporters all have their favourites and sometimes guys that are struggling can fly under the radar. Antropov was getting a free pass but two loooooooooooooooong scoring droughts have brought him smack into the spotlight at possibly the worst time (or best?) possible for the Leafs as trade talks heat up as we move towards March 4th.
However, Ian White and the big minutes he has been logging (we get it, he's playing lots) have thus far missed out on being fitted for goat horns. Which doesn't make sense because I am pretty sure that we had made him a pair in the off-season. Maybe the swelled head is causing problems. Either way, the real crime on that Poni turnover (which does not excuse being unable to clear the zone) was that Ian White decided to cover Toskala's right hand post rather than Chad LaRose leaving him alone to beat Toskala. This comes one game after he decided that since Peverley looked so nice skating towards the net in Atlanta during overtime that he should probably let him go unabated towards the net so that he could score the game winning goal. Ian is nothing if not a giver.
Added to that, Cam Ward was back in his Jedi-Cam state. He was calm and cool. He made fantastic pad saves from close range. He also exploded from post-to-post against Jason Blake a couple of times, denying him the wraparound goal that he successfully scored in Raleigh last week. The Leafs announcers were very complimentary of his work.
Vomit. Cam Ward is the worst goalie to ever win the Conn Smythe. I don't even need to bother with facts or stats to back that up because any right-thinking hockey fan already knows that that is true.
The applause was touching. So was the video tribute that commemorated his two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I understand not showing a video of Paul Maurice's greatest timeouts as a tribute but did they really have to throw two points into the welcome home basket?
Speaking of Antropov, you know way up there, he didn't play all that much last night:
The good news: March 4th, 2009, the NHL trade deadline, is just 44 days away. The bad news: the trade value of Leaf players continues to plummet. Three players whose trade values should be of key interest to Leaf management saw their ice time reduced last night. Frogren was only on for 8:31, Kubina saw limited time in the 3rd and finished at under 15 minutes (14:52) well below Stralman (20:43) and also White, Schenn, and Kaberle, who were all 23+. Antropov also had reduced minutes (13:07) compared to Blake (18:47) and Hagman (16:53). In fact, only May, Mayers, and Tlusty had fewer minutes then Antropov.
Yikes. Then again, this is all part of Nik's plan to stay in Toronto so don't panic.
And remember, every point lost is a point gained in the Leafs' quest for the top pick. We're coming for you Fishsticks!