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Ulmer: Saturday Night Wasn't Fun For Anyone

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Let's start with the disclaimer.

I work for Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment. I wouldn't put too much stock in that, though. Even a cursory look at my career will reveal a boatload of career-limiting decisions bordering on the suicidal. I wouldn't say it if I didn't believe it. I am as unbiased as the next guy which, if you really want to get down to brass tacks truth, probably isn't very unbiased at all.

All that said, the kind of hockey the Boston Bruins unveiled in beating the Leafs 2-1, Saturday wasn't good for anyone.

Several years ago, I was talking to Craig Hartsburg after his Anaheim Mighty Ducks team had trapped the Leafs into a sixty-minute taffy pull. "It was terrible to watch," I said.

"Too bad," he said.

I think of that when I watch him, from ports near and far, every Christmas. In five years with Chicago and Anaheim, Hartsburg twice missed the playoffs and won a grand total of one playoff round. Not much of a return for all that unwatcheable hockey.

Yes, Saturday's 2-1 loss to Boston was decided in large part by the Leafs' inability to score on their six power plays.

But Boston shut the game down when they went ahead midway through the second period NHL general managers say they don't necessarily want more scoring so much as more scoring chances. They should be force fed the video of Saturday's game, as joyless and mechnanical a night's work as you will find. The Leafs, God bless them, accrued their four-game winning steak on the basis of improved team defence. They are effective when they dilligently pluck the opposition's chances from the garden. The Bruins use a kind of trapping Agent Orange, and that's not good for anybody.

It wasn't good for Hartsburg. It certainly hasn't proven good for Julien who was fired after 72 wins in Montreal and one full season in New Jersey where the Devils collected over 100 points but were forth from the bottom in scoring.

The league has brought goalie equipment in line, introduced wild card penalties and curtailed interference. Scoring, and by my guess, scoring chances are still trending downward.

It's simple, really. Fans who know what they were getting paid good money for an NHL game, Saturday night. Never mind who won. They weren't treated fairly.

The solution is harder. An outlaw of the trap will be complicated and enforcement will have to come from another official located in the press box.

The tactic is easy to see. As soon as the puckhandler picks a side, the weak side players collapse in, leaving little option but a high risk pass or a dump in. Esthetically, it's as much fun as watching a kid clean his braces.

An eye-in-the sky and a no fly zone for trapping defensive players is a drastic solution. I'm not even sure it will work. But if you watched Saturday's game, you know it's a drastic problem.

Never mind the Philadelpiha Flyers. The Boston Bruins are bent on the ruination of hockey.
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