Got down to the ACC tonight to see the Oilers.
Had a couple of pints and a decent dinner with my best friend. He's a fair sized wig at Honda. We get out every year for a game, on them. This year beat it all - third row from the ice just to the left of the net - home end.
Pretty damn good. Right in the Platinum Club they call it. Walk down to take a leak and some guy is slicing roast beef. You can get yourself a 40 dollar sandwich.
I did not.
Before the game on the scoreboard and I am paraphrasing - "The Leafs - we have more fans then any other team in hockey" - something to that effect.
Now they might but that was just weird. Richard Peddie's fingerprints all over that one. We have more fans then any other team in hockey and also have gone longer then any team but Chicago without a Cup.
Saw the Roots guy, the one with the gigantic eyebrows but no other celebrities. A lot of Toronto establishment folk, much like European royalty - a lot of inbreds and more money then sense but that's ok, so it goes.
The opening ceremony was alright. Some of those old fellows look pretty vigourous, George Armstrong was most impressive. Bob Pulford took a break from destroying the Blackhawks (his work is pretty well done) to attend. Keon got a nice ovation but it was not what I expected. I thought there would be more to it but that's the Leafs' crowd. Allan Stanley came out with bright red hair. That was odd.
First period was pretty good. Smyth line had two straight two on ones. On the first Smyth likely should have passed to Hemsky but missed on the shot by inches. On the second Horc sent a beauty pass over and it hopped over Ales' stick. So it goes.
When you see it live as rarely as I do you forget how big the players are and how fast.
So with last change Maurice got out who he wanted out there but the Smyth line dominated all game anyhow - it was much like how Tyler described the Sabres game. They didn't have a lot of terrific chances but they were all over the Leafs at every turn. But after that well this looked like the Oilers of old, a lot of try but not a lot of talent.
And they're small - jeez the Leafs pushed them around. The Oilers didn't back down so fair play to them but man they didn't get a lot going on in the high traffic area in front.
Really noticed a lot of little things. Smith was just plain solid. Staios too, despite getting overwhelmed by Sundin on the fourth goal. Hejda as well, he just does the little things well.
A guy who impressed - Laddy Smid. He screwed up on the fourth goal with a bad pass - just left it there and the end result about thirty seconds later - a goal. But over all - the kid can skate, he has poise and he can move the puck. He had a good game.
Bergeron, meh. On the second Pohl goal he hung Nedved out to dry I thought. The better play was to get it out, to give it to a guy in front of the net with Kilger right on top of him wasn't too bright ... but that's Bergeron.
Greene - well classic Greene. He's behind the net in the second for about twenty seconds or so while everyone sets up and then I don't even know what the fuck he did but he pops it off of someone so suddenly its an odd man situation deep in the Oilers' zone. Everyone sort of said how the fuck did that happen? It was almost Steve Smith redux.
Well, its Matt Greene.
Toronto crowd is odd. The whole scene is odd. Go for a leak and there's the sushi bar. And of course just a quiet group.
Anyhow up front the Oilers are just missing too much. You have Peterson and Lupul playing with Sykora so nothing is happening there. Lupul will initiate contact but he is such a pussy. Anytime someone pushes back or initiates contact he folds. Early in the game he has the puck just inside the Oiler blueline, has to chip it three inches. And Pohl I believe it was outmuscled him and kept the puck in. For a contrast Reasoner fought off two Leafs at one point to get the puck out on the PK. And Nedved, Reasoner and Stortini bust their asses but they generate nothing. So that's two lines down.
But some hope tonight. Pouliot was terrific. Obviously there was the penalty shot and they also gave him the third goal though it looked like Smyth got it to me. In any case the kid can play. He made a number of plays at a high speed that were big time plays. And he can create something out of nothing. Early in the third on a two on two, I believe it was, he got over the blueline, stopped dead, and a a quick, accurate and hard shot that Raycroft had to make a nice save on.
Anyhow the kid looked great. Lowetide would have been proud. And Thoresen had a nice game as well. Same deal as Pouliot. Good sense, good skater, gets his nose dirty and plays at a high tempo. Had that chance in close. Looked at the sky right in front of us and let out a mighty "FUCK" - he's frustrated.
But there were a couple of differences in the game and likely why the Oilers will be on the outside and the Leafs may be in the playoffs.
The Leafs have six Dmen, of whom five can move the puck and move it well. The Oilers have, well, nobody. Staios, Smith, Smid and Hejda did ok tonight but that's ok, not good. The Leafs had five who did the job well.
The other thing - John Pohl scored two nice goals. Who? Right. When it was 1-0 it looked like the Oilers wouldn't even get the equalizer.
Thoresen and Pouliot were great, I thought, but when you have two kids showing better sense, better skill and more heart then the guys who should be picking up the slack - Torres, Sykora, Lupul - well, you're not making the playoffs.
Anyhow, if you made it this far, I'm not sure what they show on HNIC but they kept interviewing the oldtimers at the breaks. Keon, Bower and so on. Beauty moment, I'm talking classic, they're interviewing Bower and Red Kelly (the man on the right of the pic up top - eight cups I believe). So the final draw in 67, Stanley wins the faceoff back to Kelly who gets it to Pulford who gives it to Armstrong who scores the empty netter to clinch, right.
So they ask Kelly to describe it and he says " Well Stanley wins it back to me and I get it to Pully and of course he moves it real quick to Army and of course he's an Indian so he shoots it nice and straight, just like an arrow, into the net."
Beauty. Just a beauty.