TORONTO SPORTS FANS FLOCK AND MIGRATE
Both the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jays found themselves in Florida at the same time this week and must have frowned to find the weather less than vacation-like.
Apparently the Leafs have more fans than the Panthers in Florida, a franchise whose existence defies reason. The Florida Panthers have a $47 million budge and the turnout to their games. is dismal Their team cannot improve, their coach appears weak and the fans disinterested. More fans at the game sported Leafs jerseys than Panthers, most Florida fans are hesitant to buy a home team jersey until they can at least figure out what ICING is! Tampa Bay’s crowd was marginally better, but they have the benefit of having some exciting players on their team.
It is likely cheaper, and most certainly easier, to fly to Florida and catch the Leafs there than at the ACC. The Tampa Bay Lightning broadcasters were advertising a package called ALL YOU CAN EAT SEATS for $39 featuring limitless popcorn and hotdogs. A bucket of popcorn at the ACC probably costs $15, a ticket upwards of $150 and beers are $18.75! Why the NHL has two franchises in Florida is beyond me, if they deserve two teams Ontario ought to have 28! The Panthers could more easily sell out NHL games inf they relocated to Yellowknife. It was Gary Bettman’s stubborn refusal to give up on failing southern teams that I believe caused some of the financial difficulties that led up to two lockouts!
LEAFS SHUT PANTHERS DOWN – DINEEN GETS ANTI-DEPRESSANTS
If there were any genuine hockey fans there to cheer for Florida the Leafs didn’t give them much. Colton Orr opened the game fighting with George Parros, the intellectual and philosopher who makes a living breaking noses in the NHL and the same Parros that nearly ended Orr’s career two years ago. There was no clear winner, though it was a moral one for Colton. The Leafs garnered their 16th, 17th and against Tampa their league leading 18th and 19th fighting majors. They lead the league in fights and hits, keeping just ahead of Columbus.
The fight isn’t in the Florida Panthers; not via scraps or in the corners or from their coach Kevin Dineen either. The final two minutes of the game Florida was on the PP losing 3-0 and he didn’t put six attackers on. That can’t be motivational to a team to not try to break the shutout. It seemed to me like the actions of a depressed person to just stop trying. Obviously in Florida it’s job related depression and not seasonal affective disorder. Regardless of how the game ended the fight was clearly out of the Florida team through the 2nd period where at one point the Leafs had 10 straight shots and two goals.
Ben Scrivens pitched his 2nd shutout in a row ending the game with 144:51 mins of scoreless hockey. Scrivens moved up to 3rd in the league in save percentage and in the top 10 in GAA silencing all the fears in Leafs nation for a while with James Reimer injured. Reimer can take his time, heal properly and come back when ready.
Nazem Kadri was excellent all over the ice during this two game road trip. Despite his continued difficulties with face-offs he’s been an inspiring story this season. He and linemate Clarke MacArthur both had a goal and an assist while Kadri drew two penalties and scored on the first one. The Leafs faceoff performance has been weak for a week but good defensive play has helped hide the fact. They key to the Leafs success is that Randy Carlysle will bench underperforming players regardless of salary whereas Florida has to play Kovalev to stay above the cap floor. Final score, Toronto 3, Florida 0.
TAMPA BAY THE VERY NEXT DAY
The Leafs landed in Tampa Bay the next night and did their best to slow the game down and keep it as boring as possible. Kadri was the one Leaf who was real exciting in the first period except in the faceoff circle, if he is to ever be number one center that is the one aspect he’ll have to work on. Nonetheless he skates hard and draws penalties.
Meanwhile the Leafs managed by the end of the 2nd period to kill off 23/24 penalties. The Leafs aren’t playing overly exciting hockey despite the hits, the fights and some of the pretty goals. They don’t have the talent of Stamkos/Lecavallier/StLouis and they shouldn’t try to play that game. There were times last year that the Ron Wilson run and gun version of the Leafs was very exciting to watch, however every Leafs fan who ever lived would rather see a team who is disciplined and winning over a team who plays fast end to end without the ability to plug up the zone. None of that mattered tonight though as Tampa Bay’s big guns scored on the few good chances they had.
At 4-1 it was time for Scrivens to rest and give Jussi Rynnas a chance to play. Even with the Leafs losing no one could be disappointed in what they’ve done in the last week not to mention the battle they brought in the last four minutes against Tampa. Kessel scored to make it 4-2 and then rung one off the post a minute later. IFinal score Tampa Bay 4, Toronto 2.
At the end of the 2nd period the stats said that Tampa Bay outchanced the Leafs 5-4. Who decides what is a chance anyway? Was that a scoring chance that Cam Ward allowed to bounce over his stick on Monday night? It’s a subjective stat. What was a scoring chance on Vesa Toskala might be a shot on goal against Craig Anderson.
Is anyone going to believe that Oscar Pistorius didn’t know his supermodel girlfriend was in the house on Valentines Day? He claimed that he shot his girlfriend through the bathroom door because he didn’t have his legs on and thought there was an intruder in the bathroom. There was a reason that God invented the saying ‘come out with your hands up’ and it was so people wouldn’t shoot their girlfriends through doors by accident. Generally thieves don’t spend a lot of time in the bathroom, unlike supermodels on Valentines Day.
Now Oscar can host an Olympic party from prison, just like OJ did for the Superbowl. And when Oscar gets out of jail maybe he’ll try to rob someone for some memorabilia too.