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Monday, December 11, 2006

Rising B's, Sinking Leafs

At the beginning of the season, experts made their bids. Boston a playoffs team by a hair and Toronto out of contention. As the standing show, today, both of B's and Leafs are out of contention but the B's are in a better position. The team have 2 games in hand, on almost every team in front of them, and the team win more then she lose.

At the same period, last year, the B's were a sad result. Their early schedule was packed with divisional and intra-conference games and the result was ugly. In fact, the team dug a very deep hole and never saw the light of the day, again. This year is different. The team is winning and most importantly didn't fall apart against divisional or intra-conference foes. Very important, indeed, if you consider that this conference is tight as it can be and that a tie-breaker might the difference between the 8th or the 9th spot. If the B's are able to keep the pace and add some points with their games on hand, the team will be just fine.

Toronto had a great start. The team was fine and Raycroft was solid until their 3 games extravaganza against the B's. Everything fall apart and they team is, now, on a 7 games losing streak. Rumours are swirling around the team: Sundin should go ! Steen in the minors etc etc. Dejà vu, right? Yes, the B's were in the same position last year when their record against the conference was awful. Toronto his sinking fast and the schedule is not working for them as they will face, in order, Tampa Bay, the Rangers and Florida. In a case of a tie breaker, the Leafs could be in trouble. Yes, the Leafs are sinking and if the things are not turning around, soon, they could be out of contention by the end of december. Remember, at the beginning of the season, when Matt and I said that the B's would have to be more effective against their conference?. Well, it might just be the difference. The B's are rising, the Leafs are sinking and we won't complain about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What has happened to the Leafs reminds me of what happened last year with the B's. I know a lot of people had lost interest by then, but before the Olympics break the B's had a good thing going, and a sliver of a chance at making the playoffs. Then after the break they played Buffalo. They gave it their best, but Buffalo was simply a better team. Knowing they would have to play them something like 6 more times that month, it was a huge let down and they tanked in their next game. They gave it one more shot against Buffalo and after that the season was over for them.

The reason I point this out is that this new schedule plays a huge role in making or breaking a team, sometimes based on a matchup against a single division opponent. I haven't heard much discussion of this. Close followers of hockey know that some teams can always beat others, no matter how good either of them are that year. Sometimes it's mental, and sometimes it's a matter of how their styles match up, and sometimes a combination of the two. Regardless, a good team facing a division opponent who can always seem to beat them is really up against the wall. Not only are there as much as 16 points between the teams on the line, but there is this huge cost to confidence knowing that this other team is out there and you have to play them eight times and no matter what you can't seem to win.

Here's how I think the B's match up this year and my predictions for the season series:

Toronto: 7-1
Ottawa: 6-2
Montreal: 5-3
Buffalo: ?

The season series against Buffalo is the season breaker. They need to take at least two of these games!

Teams that worry me in conference match-ups: Atlanta, Carolina, and New Jersey. I think the B's can take everyone else on any given night. But they will have to get a lot better to hang with these three!

11:29 AM  

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