Friday, October 06, 2006

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, On Ice!

Let's put this in as plain English as we possibly can: The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked the crap out of the Ottawa Senators last night. Oh man, that was sweet.

The Leafs opened the season with a home and home against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. There was a lot of doubt surrounding the Buds. Could they score five-on-five? Could they keep up with the ultra-slick Senators speed? Could the Leafs defy their critics and prove everyone wrong?

And Wednesday night they responded to those questions with a resounding "No." They lost 4-1, basically fulfilling every criticism anyone has ever laid at this team. Their only goal came on a (very generous) penalty shot. Bryan McCabe looked out of place. Hal Gill was a glorified pylon. The youngsters were ineffective. Andrew Raycroft was completely average. Their offense lacked spark.

So no one was very surprised come Thursday morning. Disappointed, sure, but not surprised. We were also left a general sense of dread regarding the follow up game in Ottawa. Thoughts of Toronto's 1-7 record last season versus Ottawa floated through our heads. Turns out, we had nothing to worry about.

The fans in Ottawa bought tickets for a hockey game Thursday night, but what they ended up with was a production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde On Ice. Where Martin Gerber had been a rock for Ottawa 24 hours earlier, he was ineffective and didn't even manage to finish the game. Where the Leafs' forwards couldn't seem to care less in game one, they were all over the ice, forcing turnovers and taking shots for sixty solid minutes in game two.

So the question for both sides is, which performance was the real one? Can we really expect Toronto to play with that kind of passion for another 80 games? Can we really expect the Senators to be so listless for the rest of the season? On both accounts, we would advise not betting on it.

The Leafs are, for as much as we love them, not that good a team, and the Senators, for all we hate them, are not that bad.

But damn if it doesn't give us Leaf faithful some hope.

Speaking of hope, the Philadelphia 76ers have given the Raptors some in a rather
backwards sort of way.

The NBA, in an attempt to cosmopolitanize itself, has sent half a dozen teams to Europe to sell some merchandise. Oh, and play some games. That too.

This plan worked for the Leafs a few years ago when they did a preseason tour of Sweden and Finland, routing all of their European competition in the process.

However, we can't help but feel that NBA has set itself up for a rather large fall. The quality of European basketball teams is way higher than most are willing to give credit; Greece proved that by beating a certain American team in a certain world championship.

Which brings us back to the 76ers, who lost to a Spanish team yesterday (we can't make fun of them; the Raptors lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv last year). Now to the good news: The Raptors have a roster that looks like it's ready to compete for the Eurocup, not to mention containing two members of the World Cup winning Spanish team. Extrapolate people, extrapolate!

Silver lining under every cloud,


No comments: