It’s gut check time for this Toronto Maple Leafs team.
The penalty killing remains atrocious, as the Philadelphia Flyers scored three with the man advantage. Jonas Gustavsson
had perhaps his worst game as a pro but as head coach Ron Wilson pointed out he was also hung out to dry by the club’s woeful defence.
Some Leafs fans were incensed by enforcer turned goal scorer Daniel Carcillo skating by the bench after scoring a gorgeous goal, chirping assistant coach Keith Acton, and giving the horns to the crowd after a draw with Jamal Mayers in an uninspired fight. But I’m of the belief that when a team is outplaying you like that, there’s no such thing as hot dogging. Maybe it’s poor sportsmanship but here’s an idea - do something on the ice to earn some revenge rather than bemoan the issue after the fact. If the Leafs can use Carcillo’s boastfulness as motivation, then more power to them with the rematch coming up next week on Thursday at the ACC.
For now the Flyers appear to be a team that has turned the corner, just two points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand on eighth place Montreal. Peter Laviolette has worked wonders with instituting the left wing lock system and demanding better forechecking from the Flyers in his system. Now it’s up to Captain Ron to take a page from his book and figure out a way to inspire a moribund club.RAPTORS
Those that are regular readers of this space know that I am a man who eschews hyperbole. But there’s no other way around it - these last two victories for the Raptors were absolutely huge.
The five game winning streak was sweet but almost seemed to be a must considering the dearth of the competition. I viewed the three games with the Celtics, Spurs and Magic with massive skepticism thinking Toronto may only get one of those games. So in this case, I do indeed invoke Meat Loaf, since two out of three ain’t bad.
The win against the Spurs was impressive for the team’s commitment at the defensive end, holding Manu Ginobili to single digits after he had torched the Raps earlier in the season. But against the Magic, I was floored by the club’s selfless and smart ability to share the basketball. 31 assists on 39 made shots from the field is exceptional and kudos to Jose Calderon who returned to the tune of eight assists and just one turnover in 25 minutes of work. Calderon also gave a considerable boost to the bench as they combined for 28 points, 15 assists and 65 percent shooting from the field.
All the starters were in double digits with Andrea Bargnani stunningly doing an effective job on Dwight Howard in single coverage, as D12 was suffering from turnover woes. And once again defensively, the Raptors showed appreciable improvement compared to earlier in the season, especially when it comes to defending the perimeter and contesting 3 pointers. In the first three games head-to-head the Magic shot a blistering 42.6 percent from downtown. On Wednesday night, 29 percent. In this case, the defence rests.OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND
- Justin Bieber, 15 year old Canadian singing sensation, is not dead despite a premature report of his demise on Twitter. Never mind that a 15 year old singing about heartbreak is absurd - I can finally rest in peace knowing that he’ll be with us for much longer, giving my eardrums acute, terrifying pain.
- In my never ending quest to see every Oscar contender, big and small, I took in A Single Man
starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore who will likely be nominated for Academy Awards in less than a month’s time for best actor and best supporting actress. Although I found the film’s pacing tedious, I appreciated Firth’s nuanced portrait of a grieving professor mourning the loss of his lover and as for Moore, I’ve been a huge fan ever since her one-two punch in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights
. She plays Firth’s boozy BFF and in less than twenty minutes of screen time, gives another entertaining turn.
- More people watched the World Juniors, 5.3 million, than the Grey Cup, 5.1 million. Oilers fans must be salivating about Jordan Eberle.
- My beloved Eagles were pancaked by the Cowboys and now have the rematch on Saturday night. I only believe that this club has way too much talent and poise to lose three times to a Dallas team that is admittedly peaking at the right time. I’m fully confident Donovan and Desean take centre stage on a Philly team that always plays its best after some adversity.
- It’s a damn shame that Pacquiao-Mayweather is off. Was jacked beyond belief to see Manny drill Floyd. Praying hopelessly for a reversal of fortune.