Undisciplined play has been a thorn in the Maple Leafs side all season and Colton Orr was emblematic of that on Sunday. He’s a tough guy looking to prove he’s worthy of being a millionaire in this league but three minor penalties was flat out unacceptable. Two minors for attempting to goad Daniel Carcillo who smartly didn’t take the bait and then a ridiculous slam into Michael Leighton to pick up another minor.
Once again, the Buds couldn’t recover from an early deficit despite some fine work from Luca Caputi, who has shown promise after coming over for Alexei Ponikarovsky. As for the Flyers, I know the Penguins and Capitals are favoured for good reason to come out of the Eastern Conference but Philly’s my dark horse pick. Jeff Carter has 30 goals, Danny Briere has 23, Mike Richards has been hot since the Olympic break and Simon Gagne is finally lighting the lamp after an injury-marred season. Add in youth with Claude Giroux and James VanRiemsdyk and an underrated defence led by Chris Pronger, sixth in points among defenceman, and his steady partner Matt Carle and you have a potent club.
As for Michael Leighton, playing for his 7th club at the age of 28, living out of a hotel room while his family remains in Windsor - he’s been nothing short of a revelation. So what if he’s unproven in the playoffs? A .920 save percentage is enough to open my eyes and he exhibited strong net presence and poise yet again versus Toronto. Perhaps he’s the long awaited answer in goal for a Philly franchise long on pride and short on patience.RAPTORS
This six game stretch for the Toronto Raptors could be a bellweather for just how well equipped this team is to handle the stretch run and make a strong push towards the playoffs. What’s most bedeviling is the way their defence has capitulated in three of the last four games, culminating in a soft effort that yielded 114 points on Sunday. Jay Triano didn’t cite work ethic as a culprit but rather a lack of focus, as not enough of the players were rotating on weak side help and communicating at the defensive end. Strong defence is more than just closing out, moving your feet, keeping your man in front of you and barking out direction. But if those key facets aren’t in place, then flourishes like shot blocking and steals definitely occur with far less regularity.
Ultimately those issues need to be improved and fast because the best case scenario for this four-game, week long, west coast swing, appears to be a split. After that, it’s the Thunder and Hawks at home, two premier teams who have given the Raptors issues. Yes, Toronto hasn’t played with a full deck this season but even with a full roster, their defensive inadequacies have been worrisome and even an often times superior offence won’t be able to camouflage that.OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND
- An uneventful Oscar telecast since seven of the eight major categories were entirely predictable (with the exception of Geoffrey Fletcher taking a golden guy away from Jason Reitman, who seemed destined to pick up at least one victory for Best Adapted Screenplay for Up In The Air
.) Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin made for a dynamic hosting duo especially their opening monologue in which they lampooned each other, shaking hands after announcing their threesome with Meryl Streep and poking fun at virtually every major celebrity there. (Martin: There’s that damn Helen Mirren. Alec: Uh, Steve that’s dame Helen Mirren.)
I was happiest most of all for Jeff Bridges finally winning a Best Actor Academy Award for the piquant tale Crazy Heart
and in a classy address saluting his parents, wife and daughters. I was most disheartened by Sandra Bullock’s win for The Blind Side
, a treacly, syrupy overrated work in which she was the weakest of the nominees for Best Actress yet emerged the winner (given credence to all those who dismiss the telecast as a popularity contest.) And my favourite speech of the night came from veteran character actor Stanley Tucci, honouring Meryl Streep with humour (spearheading a campaign to cap nominations at 16) and grace.
As for the interpretive dance number honouring the Best Original Score nominees - let’s hope that bit will be retired to the rafters just like Doogie Howser’s opening number. On a personal note, I finished in a four-way tie for top spot in my Oscar pool and shout out to my man RT! The finest Oscar host I know and also the most talented director in the country working today.
- Someone asked me the other day what it’s like working with Leo Rautins who towers a foot taller than me. I assume it’s much like how Danny Devito would feel standing next to Heidi Klum. In four inch heels. Heidi not Danny.
- Reason not to have faith the Blue Jays got a decent return for Roy Halladay - Kyle Drabek, the centerpiece says he gave ‘Valentine’s Day
’ three and a half stars. Let’s hope his pitch selection is better than his movie selections!