February 14, 2013
Maple Leafs 1 @ Carolina Hurricanes 3
Hurricanes bring out worst in Maple Leafs for second time this season
I am not so sure anyone can call that a hockey game on behalf of the Maple Leafs. Almost the same can be said for the Carolina Hurricanes, playing their first game on home ice after a successful long road trip. But credit the Leafs for making sure that Carolina made use of its full home ice advantage.
Seriously though, give some credit to Ben Scrivens tonight. The backup goaltender for Toronto gave the visitors every opportunity to win this game, or at least come back and make a game of it. He looked sharp all night, but the Leafs did not use it to their advantage.
Instead, it was Toronto who helped set up all three of Carolina's goals in the second period. The entire middle frame was a total disaster for the Leafs. Guys in white and blue were too busy twirling around and polishing up their triple axels before falling hard to the ice for the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Michelle Kwan would have been proud of them tonight. But not me!
Mikhail Grabovski was the main culprit to blame for the first Canes goal. After the puck had been cleared, Grabovski headed back towards his own zone, coughed the puck back up and then fell down in front of his goalie as Joe Corvo fired a shot top shelf past Scrivens.
The goal seemed to get the attention of the Leafs, who scored moments later on a power play opportunity off a shot from Dion Phaneuf that glanced in off of Nazem Kadri's leg. God bless Phaneuf for not taking out another one of his own men in front of the goal. His shot seemed more of a pass or deflection chance instead of an 'on-target' shot. It was another nice play by the captain who's game has gotten much stronger as of late and is a big reason for the teams' success so far.
Besides the sharp play of Scrivens the whole game, the lucky bounce goal was the only other bright spot of the evening. After the tying goal, the Maple Leafs game went straight to hell.
The Canes scored a garbage goal on a power play, after Scrivens' diving attempt to freeze the loose puck was interfered with by his own defenseman Korbinian Holzer. Instead of letting his goalie take charge, Holzer's bump from behind helped free up the puck to Jussi Jokinen, who then had an open net to shoot at.
Then less than three minutes later, Clarke MacArthur went down like a ton of bricks stopping hard for some reason after crossing into the Carolina zone. A sea of red came storming at Scrivens who made a masterful pad save on Jeff Skinner's initial shot, but the rebound came right to Jordan Staal who ripped home the last goal of the game past Scrivens, still waiting for someone in white to come help out defensively.
I hope that this was just a speed bump for Toronto, who came into the game on a four game winning streak and had plenty of time to prepare for the Hurricanes. It is one thing to lose and still look good like Chicago for example, who is 10-0-3, but have played great in all thirteen of its games earning points in each. However, it is an entirely different story to lose and look awful like the Leafs did tonight.
I did not see the fire from anyone on the ice. David Steckel was inserted for Matt Frattin and did not seem too enthusiastic about getting back onto the ice after several games watching from the press box. I say, give someone else a chance then like Joe Colborne or Ryan Hamilton.
Mikhail Grabovski and the Northern Asia Affect:
The one player that I was disappointed with tonight was Mikhail Grabovski. After making a terrible play leading to the first goal of the game for Carolina, he ended up making the same stupid and lazy mistake minutes later. After the Leafs had successfully cleared the zone, Grabovski once again headed back into his own zone and threw away the puck to Carolina fore-checkers. It took another terrific stop by Scrivens to save his rear end and the game for the time being.
The problem is that with those types of plays, both of them just minutes apart, show what type of a player that Mikhail Grabovski is, or could be if not motivated (or coached) properly. He seems like a guy who needs to be motivated every night, then again every shift. It also seems to be a similar case compared to other players from Russia, or Belarus or whatever they want to call it now. But wait a minute, doesn't he have enough motivation playing professional hockey in the world's best league, and making millions of dollars in a foreign country where he wouldn't come close to earning that kind of money in his home country? I guess not! It is a shame, and should make the rest of us feel even more angry.
I can recall several players from the past from Russian decent who are the same way. For example, take Barry Trotz's benching of Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov in the playoffs a couple years ago. It is the postseason, and still you got Russian players playing lazy and uninspired hockey. Actually, the two forwards were suspended for being in a bar late at night before a playoff game, but they were still playing lousy for the Predators in their series against Phoenix which the team would eventually lose.
Following the Blackhawks in Chicago, we have had a few Russian players who played for the 'Hawks that never seemed motivated to play at their full potential while donning the Indian Head. I remember one night in 2004 after Chicago traded away Alexander Karpovtsev to the New York Islanders, broadcaster Pat Foley just went off on him of how much of a negative guy he was to the team and who apparently needed a lot of extra motivation to perform each night.
If you want to hear it yourself, click on this link below:
Fans may recall this guy, who also played some for the Maple Leafs before he got to Chicago. Foley was adamant about Karpovtsev's excuses and constant nagging injuries more so than his game. His game though was not very good while in Chicago either. But the overall attitude is what I am trying to install into my point of view on players from Russia and how it boils down to other players like Grabovski, Kostitsyn, Radulov and several others.
I am not trying to be too hard on #84, but this is nothing new with him and obviously not new to his fellow countrymen or 'region men', if I can use such a word.
His performance tonight, as well as many of the Leafs reminded me of the scene in Slaphot with the late great actor Paul Newman and his fellow Chiefs playing the Hyannisport Presidents at the beginning of the movie. Their captain, Nick Brophy comes up to Newman and says he is drunk. Michael Ontkean later drills him against the boards and tells him to get the "h" off the ice before he kills himself.
Imagine Grabovski having this same conversation with Eric Staal tonight:
Dunlop (Staal): How's it going, Nick (Mik)?
Brophy (Grabovski): I'm drunk.
Brophy: I'm not bulls**in' ya. Got stinkin' s**faced on the bus. Louise left me, and that son of a b**h over there keeps playin' me when he knows I'm s**faced.
Dunlop: Jeez, I'm really sorry.
Brophy: Anybody throws me against the boards, I'm gonna p**s all over myself.
The Leafs were all equally "out" of this game from the very beginning. The only man who came ready to play tonight was Scrivens in goal.
Oh yea, how far have the Washington Capitals gone with the Great 8? The Caps are still yet to get past the second round with the great Ovechkin. Coincidence or further evidence to my argument?
Like I said, hopefully tonight's lackluster performance was nothing more than a minimal speed bump before taking on the Ottawa Senators back at home on Saturday night. The same can be said for Grabovki's game, because when he is on, he is fun to watch as is any of those players I mentioned above.
I will be back with more tomorrow after the Kings-Blue Jackets game at Staples Center...