Thursday, March 22, 2007

Belated thoughts on the Belak game

The Leafs don't play again until tomorrow, and I haven't given any sort of thoughts on the win over the Devils on Tuesday, and I still can't figure out the new Blogger-template issues, and the new blog is still looking too empty for my tastes, so here we go.

As usual, I didn't actually watch the game, but I read about it and had both Jared and Steve tell me about it (in particular, the big fight, which we'll get to in a second). I'm very happy with a win against the Devils, a team that I picked before the season to win the Cup and one that I'll probably be picking again in a few weeks to win it all. Lots of people were/are surprised with how good New Jersey has been; not I. I expected this. I also expected the Leafs to be fairly mediocre, and while they've definitely been a better than I had credited them with (although given that I placed them in about 10th, maybe not THAT much better), I still would count them out against a top team like the Devils.

But they won, and won in regulation at that, giving a much needed two points to a team that is struggling in the playoff race. The best part is that neither Carolina nor Montreal, the other two teams that Toronto sits tied with for the eight and final spot, haven't been showing much life lately. Granted, Toronto's been on-and-off with the results, too, but for whatever reason they always seem to hang with the big boys, and that counts for something - particularly with a big home-and-home against Buffalo this weekend. Normally I'd count them out against Buffalo (following my rule that teams that dominate should handle this Leaf team pretty easily), but my confidence is boosted following their showing on Tuesday. I think Toronto can pull out a win and an OT loss, and I'd be pretty happy with three points. I wouldn't be surprised to see them sweep, and I would be surprised at this point to see no points from this weekend. I guess I'll officially predict a win and a loss, picking up another two points, and hopefully neither Carolina nor Montreal will do anything of note so Toronto can get some breathing room like both Tampa Bay and New York did this week.

Of course, if the Islanders are getting a healthy DiPietro back, then that adds another card into the mix. A card I don't particularly want to deal with, given that the Isles have a game in hand and a pretty decent lineup. Of course, they've also lost four straight, so maybe their problems are deeper than DiPietro. Hopefully.

So I'm sort of optimistic heading into the weekend and the final drive for a playoff spot, which is especially weird for me and this Leaf team. I guess after they've gotten this far with such a weak team, they might as well make it. They'll probably break my heart again but whatever. I don't think I can really stress how important this weekend is for the team. A good showing probably puts us on the fast track to a spot... provided Carolina, Montreal, and the Islanders don't all keep up.

As for the Belak fight...

Well, I didn't think that much of the fight itself. A lot of the marvel at this brawl came, I think, because of the build and the reaction it caught. Most fights in the NHL don't have a good story behind it; this one certainly did. And the crowd's reaction to it was outstanding - they blew the god damn roof off. For Belak. That's pretty damn noteable (and hopefully it won't happen again, because the only time it SHOULD happen is in an instance like this and well, why on earth would I want someone to take out our best defenseman?). Quite frankly, Belak became an eternal fan favourite in Toronto on Tuesday and has it made here for life. But again, that's not necessarily a good thing - no matter how awesome it was to see his name get chanted as he struggled to hang with a much smaller man in a fight, he's still pretty useless. If it wasn't for his ability to play forward and defense he probably wouldn't be on the team. Or any team.

The fight itself was sort of bland I thought. Yeah, it was long, but it ended because both guys got tired out and not from any conclusive decision (though you'd probably give it to Belak on emotions alone). Actually, I think you really have to hand it to Janssen - he knew what was coming and took it like a man. I mean, fuck him, but he gained my respect back (well, some of it) with that fight. I guess I'm just thankful Toronto wasn't getting killed so that McCabe didn't go and Bertuzzi Janssen. That would have been... well, not good.

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