Many are bemoaning the Olympic break because it will result in a severely condensed schedule for the Maple Leafs and every team in the NHL. But I think it could be a positive for a buds club that has shown its streaky nature. They start 0-7-1, then had a 9-4-2 stretch and have now dovetailed again after going 0 for Alberta. The special teams is most in need of work as this team just refuses to improve its penalty killing and now the power play, ever since Phil Kessel returned, has also gone into the doldrums. The only positives I could glean from that 3-1 loss to Calgary is that the Leafs didn’t get scored on first and Jonas Gustavsson’s 32 saves perhaps showed that the rookie is ready to take the number one goaltending job and run with it after injuries marred his first half. But back to the Olympic business. It will help Kessel and Komisarek, who both missed time this season due to injury, and therefore will be well rested for the season’s second half, to be a part of something as invigorating as the Olympics especially if the U.S. team can pull off an upset behind their fabulous goaltending of wunderkind Ryan Miller and the reigning vezina winner, 35 year old Tim Thomas.
After a fantastic 5 game winning streak against weaker opposition, the Raptors climbed to within one game of .500 before suffering a frustrating loss to a Boston Celtics team missing three of their top guns. As bad as that loss was, I was extremely encouraged by Toronto’s victory on Sunday over the Spurs. Make no mistake-San Antonio is an elite team and the Raptors are now just 5-12 against teams with .500 or better records. Add to that the Raps improved to just 2-6 in the 2nd game of back to backs and now have a solid home record of 12-5 at the Air Canada Centre. They played with purpose and determination as Chris Bosh became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer against the greatest power forward in NBA history in Tim Duncan. They neutralized Manu Ginobili after he torched them when San Antonio put up 131 points on the raps earlier in the season. Jarrett jack bounced back after a bad game in Boston with 16 points and 8 assists and Demar Derozan showed some more high-flying on that alley-oop. Hopefully Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon return shortly, perhaps even in time for Wednesday’s game in Orlando. But this Raptors team is now officially respectable, hovering around the .500 mark, 6th in the eastern conference with the promise of something more after a resounding win against the team of the decade on Sunday night.
OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND
-Went and saw the star-studded musical Nine over the weekend and I disagree with esteemed film critic Larry King and it is not a 10. A six would be more like it. The film bombed at the box office against stiff competition with just $4.5 million and was butchered by critics on rottentomatoes despite a formidable roll call of Oscar winners, young and old. Although the movie has some sizzle and the sparkling Italian countryside to add to its appeal, the songs just aren’t very memorable or catchy which when you’re making a musical is a fatal flaw. Daniel Day-Lewis is miscast but the Italian accent is serviceable while his singing and dancing emphatically prove that despite his incredible talents, he has not been burying the ghost of Fred Astaire in his body. Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson and Fergie all do a nice job while Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren prove to be instantly forgettable. What was expected to be an Oscar front runner will most likely be a footnote instead and a rather expensive one at that. Rent Fellini’s 8 ½ instead.
-Tough to name all of my favourite movies of the decade. But I’ll try. The humour and intelligence of Alexander Payne’s Sideways, Wes Anderson’s the Royal Tenenbaums, Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, the labyrinth of Chris Nolan’s Memento and Darren Aronofsky’s one-two punch of Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant There Will be Blood, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s transformation in Capote, documentaries like Murderball, Capturing the Friedmans and Man on Wire. I revisited Million Dollar Baby and that Clint Eastwood film, featuring Tom Stern’s cinematography, highly influenced by Gordy Willis work in the Godfather, combined with note-perfect performances, Clint’s own beautiful musical score and a gut-wrenching finale is still a knockout. But most of all I’ll remember the decade’s cinema for finally giving America’s Greatest Living Director, Martin Scorsese, his own Oscar for a return to his glory days in The Departed. I was pulling for him to win for Gangs of New York, a more personal work for the maestro but he deserves more than one golden guy as we all know.
-Finished Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: the rules of success and highly recommend it. Among his fascinating anecdotes are how the majority of hockey players are born in early months, how Bill Gates became a genius, why southern gentlemen are hot-tempered and why I’ll never fly a plane with a Columbian co-pilot. My favourite non fiction book of the decade would be Canadian author David Gilmour’s the Film Club and my favourite sports book would have to be David Maraniss incredible bio Clemente: the Passion and grace of baseball’s last hero.