Much like the way a starting pitcher can own an opposition lineup or a football team's defence dominates a certain quarterback, there's something that the Buffalo Sabres savour about facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. Eight straight victories at the Air Canada Centre further illustrates that while the Maple Leafs recent winning streak at home was long desired, the club is still under .500 at home which is why they're still not a playoff club. Ryan Miller was fantastic once again but the Maple Leafs breakdowns in defensive zone coverage have nothing to do with the sizzling Miller who will have Ron Wilson licking his chops at the Olympics in February. For now, the Leafs have to realize that Francois Beauchemin leaving the crease where a wide open Derek Roy pounced can't be happening for this club to climb back to respectability. Having said that, three goals against in two games for Jonas Gustavsson is encouraging after the three injuries that have sidelined the young rookie.
What was most impressive about the Raptors 98-92 victory over the Hornets on Sunday was not that the Raptors are unbeaten when holding opponents to under 100 points and below 40 percent field goal shooting but the team defence the club played on the usually incandescent Chris Paul. Jarrett Jack won the point guard battle not only on the score sheet (15 points to CP3's 10 and Jack had seven assists and no turnovers while the Hornets PG had seven assists and an uncharactertistic five turnovers) but overall the Raptors showed a renewed enthusiasm for defending the perimeter (New Orleans was a paltry 3-21 from downtown). While Toronto still needs to figure out why it's own penchant for long range marksmanship has fallen off, a win against a good team like New Orleans (don't let their 2-11 road record fool you) is a positive sign heading into Motown on Wednesday night. The Pistons have been hit hard by injuries and are ripe for the picking on their home floor. And as for those concerned about Chris Bosh's lack of rebounding in Florida? He has a league-best 13 games this season with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds which is six more than the number two man, Brook Lopez.
OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND
-Rented The Hangover again and had even more appreciation for Zach Galifanakis droll scene stealing performance. I know the Academy is notoriously anti-comedies (with the notable exception of the uproarious Kevin Kline in the brilliant A Fish Called Wanda), but wouldn't it be great to see this bearded schlub get nominated for an Oscar? I love how the film plays as the comedic equivalent of Chris Nolan's brilliant Memento and the inspired chemistry and photo-finish are instant classics.
-Also saw American Beauty again on television. It's been ten years since it came out originally and I remember liking the film and then instantly thinking it was overrated after the Oscar glory and the hoopla about an inane bag floating in the wind being filled with so much beauty. But there are some fantastic satirical flourishes and Kevin Spacey plays his infatuation for Mena Suvari perfectly. Incidentally this was the beginning of the end for Spacey whose career bottomed out after two Oscars with such dreck as Pay It Forward, and The Shipping News.
-Was disappointed with By the People: The Election of Barack Obama currently on TMN via HBO. It isn't all that revelatory thinking that scenes of Obama's advisers hunkered down, analyzing spreadsheets counts as riveting drama. But it is a reminder of how historic the president's election was just one year ago.
-Really enjoying ESPN's 30 for 30 documentaries being rebroadcast on TSN. The great Albert Maysles whose work is studied in every documentary film course (Salesman, Grey Gardens) is behind the camera for Muhammad and Larry, the story of Larry Holmes savage beating of Muhammad Ali in 1981. I have an insatiable appetite for anything related to Ali and chortled with glee of the visuals of him calling himself the handsome leading man "Dark Gable." The doc marks the sad decline of Ali along with the feeling that Holmes remains underappreciated for being born in the wrong era, and being hopelessly eclipsed by Ali's magnanimous persona and timeless charisma.
-Nickelback named the group of the decade from Billboard Magazine. Horrifying.
-Check out my guy John Chick's blog roofthatpeach.com for an outstanding muscial tribute to Buck Martinez.