All right, let's get this wrapped up.
20:00 We begin with Aubin in net. Raycroft gave up 4 goals in the last 6 shots faced.
17:40 Rick tells us that McCabe has been "LEVELED BY KALETA!" but we can't see it so I'm forced to take his word for it.
17:10 We get replay of the Kaleta hit. It was fine.
15:30 Not much of interest is happening. Rick keeps saying "Colaiacovo" and I think about what a cool name that is. That start me thinking about who has the coolest name on the Buffalo side. Off the top of my head I'm going to go with Maxim Afinogenov.
15:31 Vanek moves in on the net but loses his handle on the puck. It slides out to Soupy in front of the net but instead of SHOOTING THE PUCK! Soupy chooses to pass it back to Vanek who gets dumped, drawing a penalty. Soupy was standing about six feet in front of the net and the puck was sliding right into his wind-up. SHOOT THE PUCK! Emery isn't that good! I mean, Aubin! Aubin isn't that good!
15:20 Jim tells us that Vanek has had problems scoring goals the past few games. Has someone told Vanek he can't do that any more? I'll give it ten minutes into the first home game before some fan screams, "Hey, Vanek! Quit countin' your money and score some goals!" Also, replays show that Stafford poked the puck back out to Soupy with a neat little backhanded move. I'm gonnna go out on a limb here, folks and say Stafford cracks the starting line-up this season.
14:39Someone alert the media! A power play goal! Paetsch makes a nice move to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Hecht moves in on goal, waits a split second, and then lifts the puck over Aubin after Aubin bites. Oh, on the replay it looks like Jochen faked a pass which is probably why Aubin was moving. Second goal of the night for Yo-Yo and we get his little grin as he goes to the bench.
Let me mention here that I really think Jochen played some of his best hockey this season during this stretch when the team was battling injuries and he was called on to play more and step into the leadership role. He's wearing an A during this game and has been a noticeable presence on the ice. So you people complaining that there's no leadership on the team any more can put a sock in it.
14:26 Rick informs us that a lot of Leaf fans are leaving the building. Ha ha! Blow, Leafs, Blow! Blow, Leafs, Blow!
13:40 Rick tells us AGAIN that Briere is out with the flu. We get a close-up of Jochen on the bench. He looks at the person beside him (we can't see who it is), nods, and then slowly smiles and it is adorable. I can't explain why but he looks like such a little boy when he smiles. (Wow, who knew that game diaries would bring out the puck bunny in me?)
12:25 Roy breaks out of the defensive zone but just as he reaches shooting range, Gill stretches out from behind him and pokes the puck away. Jim tells us maybe Derek should've gone down on that play in an attempt to draw something. Jim! Don't encourage him!
11:19 The boo birds are out and seem to be targeting Bryan McCabe. Thomas Vanek, are you paying attention? This is what happens when you sign a huge contract and then don't live up to expectations. For the record though, I'm not into booing your team, no matter how pathetic the power play is and no matter how much they refuse to shoot on Emery.
9:53 Roy outworks pretty much the entire Toronto team to set up a beautiful chance for Vanek who can't connect from in front of the net. Thomas! But great hustle by Derek. He was all over the place.
9:09 Stajan gets a good chance when the puck jumps over Paetsch's stick but Miller makes the save and the puck jumps up to the top of the net where it sits while Miller swings his head back and forth, desperately trying to find it. It's been that kind of night for the Leafs. They've gotten plenty of chances, just haven't been able to bury them.
7:40 Stafford, Vanek, and Roy totally wreak havoc on the Leafs, each one of them getting a really good chance on goal, totally created by their own hustle. So maybe these three stay together next season and Timmy centers Max and Pommerdoodle?
6:07 Mair makes a beautiful pass to MacArthur in front of the net. MacArthur moves the puck around a charging Aubin and then taps it in the net. 6-1, Buffalo. This game is really getting boring.
5:31 Roy decides he's played well enough for one night and makes a lovely pass to a Leaf. Oh, Derek. You really don't have to do that.
2:53 Close-up of Adam Mair who took offense at a Leaf elbowing one of his teammates. I'll admit here that part of my fondness for Mair is that he reminds me a great deal of the boy I had a massive crush on all the way through high school. The resemblance is startling sometimes. (I told you this game was getting boring.)
END OF PERIOD, END OF GAME - FINAL SCORE: BUFFALO 6, TORONTO 1
I really came to enjoy the whole game diary thing - it made me watch the game in a slightly different way than I usually do - but holy crow, it is a lot of work. I got faster with each period as I figured out what worked best, but I still spent atleast two hours or so average on each period. This is definitely not going to become a regular thing here at Top Shelf. It worked out okay this week because I'm on vacation from my day job and can stay up as late as I want. Maybe once in a while I'll bust one out.
Rick and Jim are very good at what they do. Rick has moments here and there that make you feel like retirement probably isn't too far down the line, but overall they put on a good broadcast. They have a good rapport, hardly ever talking over each other, playing off of each other in way that seems very natural and unforced. Jim also does a very good job with video replay. They don't over rely on it but after every goal Jim pulled up the tape and pointed out something that had to happen for the play to go as it did, something you might not have noticed on first viewing - one player out hustling another to a loose puck, a great breakout pass, a takeaway, stuff like that. It really helps you appreciate players like Jochen Hecht and Adam Mair who don't show up on the scoresheet every game. I honestly believe that part of the reason I'm able to sound like I know what I'm talking about now, even though I didn't grow up watching hockey, is because I've spent the past few years listening to Rick and Jim.
This team is going to be fine. Really it is. The Toronto team we played in this game was also battling injuries and they were playing their 3rd game in 4 nights so I'm not going to pretend like we just beat the best team in the NHL. But there was plenty of good stuff on display: Lydman and Tallinder were very, very good and the rest of the defense was solid with no obvious mistakes. Thomas Vanek repeatedly made chances for himself by crashing the net and out-muscling defenders. Derek Roy and Drew Stafford were both all over the ice, hustling, working hard, and repeatedly setting up the players on the ice with them. There were very few turnovers and giveaways - I can only remember one really obvious one - and no stupid penalties. And Ryan was very good in net. He made a couple of great saves at important times and was otherwise just very solid. Without Drury and Briere, the team still managed to put up six goals and this was a line-up that was missing some important pieces who will be on the team next year, Afinogenov and Gaustad being the most notable. The only glaring weakness was face-offs. We need to be better at those. But really, the pieces of a strong, competitive team are all there. So chill the heck out, Buffalo.