Saturday, April 07, 2007

Article On Tonight

Rahim Jaffer, one of's newest writers, sent me this article just now. I felt it would be better suited on the blog, since it's about tonight's Eastern battles. Here you go, enjoy

All everyone has been talking about as of late is who will make theplayoffs between the 3 teams left in the East; Toronto, NYI, orMontreal. Keep in mind when reading this article, that I am a Leaffan. Tonight the biggest game of the season for both Montreal andToronto goes down, and as a Leaf fan, I know the worst feeling wouldbe beating Montreal, and then seeing the Islanders make the playoffs.My key factors for a Montreal victory are the powerplay, thecreativity and speed of the youth, and goaltending. If the Canadiensare going to win this game, they have to capitilize on theiropportunities; especially on the powerplay. Look for Sheldon Souray tohave a big game anchoring the powerplay and more specifically thepoint. If you recall the last time the Leafs and Canadiens faced off,it was a young unknown in Andrei Kostitsyn who was the hero of thegame. If the youth of the Canadiens can keep the pace up, and usetheir pace to control the speed of the game, they should have noproblem beating the Leafs. Lastly, a lot tonight rides on theshoulders of Cristobal Huet. It's really difficult to tell whether hewill show rust today, but whatever happens tonight, the goaltendingwill be a huge part of it. Carbonneau had a hard choice to make, andthe one thing we know is that if the Canadiens lose, you know he willbe blamed for putting the wrong goalie in net. THe key factors for aToronto victory are the "SKY" line, Andrew Raycroft, and neutral zoneturnovers. The SKY line has been producing as of late decently, butagainst NYI they were invisible. They have amazing power and muscle tocycle the puck well down low, but against the Islanders, NY kept thepuck in the Toronto zone for long periods of time and the line couldnot capitilize on opportunities. I believe I saw one very goodsequence, where the line showed their cycling abilities, but that isnot enough to win a hockey game that large in importance. Mats Sundinhad a sequence on the powerplay where he shot the puck 3 times fromthe same area; twice Wade Dubielewicz made the easy stop; the otherwas blocked. This was the first time I thought Sundin had the thoughtof Darryl Sittler's record in the back of his head. Tonight is wherehe has to come out with his heart on his sleeve, and this is the timefor him to show how much he loves the city of Toronto. We love youMats, but you have to start producing! When the Maple Leafs signedAndrew Raycroft, they expected him to be a consistent goalie. We can'tcriticize him too much when we spent $7.5 million on the tandem ofKubina/Gill and they really haven't been able to completely shut downthe opposing team's star players on any single night. Gill has beengreat on the PK, and Kubina has brought some physical play andoffense, but the point is Raycroft is still being pressured to makesaves he can't. But this is one night where Raycroft is expected toshow his gratitude to the Leafs for taking a chance on him. Tonight,he must stand tall and play passionate hockey; which we haven't seenhim do in a long time. Lastly, the Leafs have to minimize neutral zoneturnovers. We all know the Canadiens play at a faster pace than theLeafs, but if they minimize turnovers, goals won't be scored. The NewYork Islanders have won the first of their two games, and in myopinion, they will get the last laugh, being the team that makes theplayoffs of the three. They look a little bit tired, but New Jerseywill being resting some players, and I'm not sure this game is at allvital to their success in the playoffs. So my predictions are Torontosqueezes by Montreal in regulation (which they must), but the New YorkIslanders beat the New Jersey Devils and make the playoffs.