Als ride Rider choke to Grey Cup win

November 30, 2009

by Jeremy Visser… Yeah, I’d call that a choke. The Saskatchewan Roughriders blew a 27-11 fourth quarter lead, falling to the Montreal Alouettes 28-27 in last nights Grey Cup on a 33-yard Damon Duval field goal as time expired. I’m guessing this one’s a little hard to take for Regina natives, because from what I understand, the CFL is pretty much their lives.

In the end, the team that was by far the most dominant in the league this year came out on top. Sure, they got some help from an inept Rider squad late, but that’s why they play the full 60 minutes. Avon Cobourne, whose three-yard score midway through the fourth pulled Montreal within eight, picked up MVP honours.

A day later and I’m guessing Saskatchewan Roughrider fans still haven’t fallen asleep after last night’s collapse due to their coach’s inability to count. Hell, even Hedo Turkoglu couldn’t have blown a game in such ugly fashion.

Hey Turkoglu, you suck!

November 29, 2009

by Jeremy Visser… It’s taken me some time to check in with a recap of this one, because to be honest, Raptors basketball is making me pretty, pretty sad these days. The boys extended their losing streak to three and dropped to 7-11 on the season yesterday, falling 113-94 to Steve Nash and the Suns at the ACC.

The Raptors never led in this one and let it get away in — you guessed it — the third quarter. After trailing by just one at the half, Toronto quickly let the Suns extend their lead to 19 before coming within eight on a Hedo Turkoglu three-point play at the end of the quarter. After starting the fourth with another and-one, Turkoglu proceeded to finish the way he’s finished every game this season — by doing nothing in crunch time. Our prized free agent finished 4-of-14 for 10 points in yet another uninspired effort.

It’s too bad, because strong games from Turkoglu and Jose Calderon (two points, seven assists) would’ve given the Raptors a shot at handling one of the league’s top teams. Chris Bosh was terrific, finishing with 30 points and 17 boards, and Andrea Bargnani kept Toronto afloat with a strong start en route to 24 points and seven boards. The Raps’ main downfall was the long ball — they finished a dreadful 1-of-20 from three-point land, compared to the 13 long range bombs the Suns dropped. If you’re a team that relies on shooting, you’re never gonna win with outings like that.

Of course, I can’t leave without mentioning the masterpiece of an effort by that young Canadian kid, Steve Nash. Nash finished with 20 points and 16 dimes, nailing that patented little fadeaway in the paint a couple times in the fourth to help put it away. The man is incredible.

Anyway, it gets a bit easier with Gilbert Arenas and the washout Wizards in town Tuesday to help the Raptors get back on track. It better be a win, because afterward it’s road time for three games.

That’s what I’m saying, guy…

Soccer and Baseball: It Is Time for Video Replay

November 28, 2009

by Jeremy Gibson… I was recently asked a very interesting question: why would anybody want to be a referee? It is not an easy question to answer, especially in this day and age of modern technology. In reality, referees and umpires have perhaps the most difficult job in all of sports. They are continually asked to make important, game altering decisions in real time, often while running or skating to keep up with the action. It is a thankless job. Referees are very rarely commended – there is no “Umpire of the Year” award – but fans and players are quick to lambaste them when they make mistakes. Unfortunately for referees and umpires, 2009 has been a year full of lambasting.

Front and centre in this awful year for officials was the MLB playoffs, a performance so awful that it has been discussed, debated, and dissected in numerous sports magazines and websites. Going into the playoffs, the odds that a casual fan had ever heard of Phil Cuzzi, Dale Scott, or Tim McClelland were slim to none. But thanks to four blatantly obvious calls going spectacularly wrong, the three are now household names. Cuzzi was the left field umpire who stared directly at a Joe Mauer fly ball as it landed fair, yet called it foul. Scott and McClelland blew three calls on the basepaths in Game 4 of the ALCS – in a span of eleven batters! Luckily for Major League Baseball the blown calls did not directly impact the outcome of a game. In the end, the Yankees won the World Series because they were the better team, not because of (or in spite of) poor umpiring.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the latest case of horrendous officiating. The refereeing mistake in a World Cup Qualifying match between Ireland and France did directly impact the outcome of the game. Because of the blunder, the Republic of Ireland lost more than just the game – they lost their dreams of heading to South Africa to compete in the biggest event in all of sports, the 2010 World Cup.

To set the stage: France had the advantage in the tie after a 1-0 road victory in Ireland on Saturday, but Ireland’s 1-0 victory after 90 minutes set up two 15-minute periods of extra time, and if necessary a penalty shootout. In the 13th minute of extra time France was awarded a free kick in Irish territory, which seemed to trigger a complete meltdown in the competence levels of the match officials. Just before the kick was taken, two French players jumped offside – something missed by both the referee and the linesman. As the ball sailed towards the box, it skipped past a number of players and appeared to be heading out of bounds for an Irish goal kick. However, French striker Thierry Henry instinctively put his hand out to stop the progress of the ball, cupping it twice with his hand before dropping it to his foot. The resulting cross was headed into the net by William Gallas. Somehow, Swedish referee Martin Hansson missed the blatant handball, and despite vigorous protests from the Ireland defenders, allowed the goal to stand.

The extra time goal gave France a 2-1 aggregate victory and sent them through to South Africa. It also unleashed a tidal wave of emotion and activity. For the Irish, two years of practice, training, coaching sessions, and qualifying came to a crashing and premature end. Players were heartbroken, coaches were furious, and fans were a mixture of both. The irate Irish Football Association petitioned FIFA to have the game replayed for reasons of fairness, an action given worldwide support after Henry’s post-game admission that he had indeed used his hand to control the ball. Referee Hansson has even been condemned by papers in his home country of Sweden.

While the error by Hansson was enormous, and the mistakes by Cuzzi, Scott, and McClelland were embarrassing for their sport, it is shameful to place all of the blame for these incidents on the officials. It is easy to forget that announcers and home viewers have the luxury of super-slow motion along with dozens of high definition cameras following every square inch of the field. To us, the correct decision is easy to see. For referees and umpires it is not that easy – they do not have access to that technology.

And there lies the most difficult fact for fans to comprehend, and why most of the blame must be placed on the organizing bodies MLB and FIFA. If the technology is available, which it clearly is, why not use it? Where basketball, football, and hockey have embraced technology with video reviews in the past few years, both baseball and soccer remain infuriatingly stubborn in their resistance. Sure baseball has adopted a review process for disputed home run calls, but that barely scratches the surface of the myriad of problems that have the potential to be resolved. Plays that can be extremely difficult for umpires to see, such as close plays at the plate or fair/foul balls, have the ability to be called accurately nearly 100% of the time. This degree of accuracy should be more important to soccer, a sport where goals are rare and carry an enormous amount of importance. Any piece of technology to ensure that all goals are valid should be welcomed by FIFA, not resisted. The organization recently discarded new technology that would, with 100% certainty, tell an official if the ball crossed the goal line – a curious, almost backwards-thinking, decision.

Why do baseball and soccer continue to lag behind the rest of the sporting world? There are three popular theories: 1) they have more history and tradition than other sports; 2) they are extremely popular, so why mess with a good thing; 3) replay would slow down the flow of the game. To an average fan, those are poor excuses, and come across as nothing more than baseball and soccer arrogance. Hockey and football fans have proven that they will tolerate a short delay in a game if they are rewarded with a correct call. After all, fans are attracted to sport because of the fairness of the competition. Refusing to eliminate bad calls from games does nothing but jeopardize that sense of fairness. Just ask the Irish.

The Celtics Took It To Us

November 28, 2009

by Jeremy Visser… Hey Jose and Andrea, next time you don’t feel like showing up for a game against a good team, do you mind informing the rest of the team in advance so they can try about 200% harder? Behind a pair of no-shows in their starting five and another patented third quarter collapse, the Raptors fell to the Celtics 116-103 in Boston tonight. Excuse the negativity, but there’s just nothing good to say about this team right now.

Calderon had nine points, four assists and three turnovers and Bargnani had seven points and four boards, negating strong efforts from Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, who each had 20 in the loss. After starting hot, Turkoglu didn’t help his cause by picking up his fourth foul of the night early in the third quarter, in which Toronto was outscored 33-17 and officially put to bed. In the past three games, the Raptors have been manhandled 105-64 in the third.

This one actually looked pretty good at halftime — despite committing 14 turnovers and allowing Boston to shoot 68% in the first half, Toronto held a one-point advantage and stretched it to four in the early minutes of the third before the wheels fell off. Paul Pierce capped it off by making a poster of Bosh early in the fourth, causing Jay Triano to raise some hell to which his team, not surprisingly, didn’t respond.

In the end, a loss that was likely to happen one way or another. Still, pretty disappointing when two guys that’ll be counted on if this team hopes to be any sort of a contender don’t bother making their presence felt.

Now 7-10, the Raps are home to face the Suns on Sunday in the first of two straight at the ACC.

That’s what I’m saying, guy…

A “Force United” No More, Jason Spezza Is Paying the Price

November 27, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… When you visited the Ottawa Senators website last season the Senators slogan, “A Force United,” was very prevalent. This season, the slogan has disappeared from the site and with it has gone Dany Heatley’s scoring and Jason Spezza’s status as an elite NHL player.

Through 20 games, Spezza has an alarming one goal to show for his efforts. To be fair, Spezza has always been more of an assists guy, but, having scored 32 goals in 2008-09, 34 goals in 2007-08, and 34 goals in 2006-07, Spezza is far off his usual 30-goal pace.

When Dany Heatley departed for San Jose this summer, there were two schools of thought on Jason Spezza. First, he would find a renewed passion for the game and instant chemistry with free agent acquisition Alex Kovalev, re-establishing himself as one of the NHL’s best puck distributors, keeping the nay-sayers at bay.

The flip-side was less than complimentary. Many prognosticators felt that the departure of Heatley would spell doom for Spezza, citing Heatley’s ability to deposit the puck as the true reason for Spezza’s success, and not Spezza’s passing skills.

When you look at the numbers, it would appear as if those that sided with Heatley’s scoring abilities outweighing Spezza’s passing were correct. Sure, through 20 games, Spezza has 12 assists, which puts him on pace to register 40 plus assists on the season. That is well in line with his 41 assist performance in 2008-09, but well off his 58 assists in 2007-08 and 53 assists in 2006-07, not to mention his 73 assists in 2005-06.

For many Senator fans, it is not the depletion of points that has them concerned, it is the lack of creativity with the puck, and the lack of cohesion with his teammates that is most troubling.

Spezza and Heatley were household names for the better part of six seasons with the Senators, and were regarded within NHL circles as one of the League’s fieriest combinations.

Now, with Heatley gone, Spezza has failed to rediscover the magic that he once shared with Heatley. And with Heatley not missing a beat alongside San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Spezza’s lack of scoring has been exposed.

Chemistry is a funny thing. At the best of times a combination such as Heatley and Spezza seems invincible. That said, when you take one or the other out of their comfort zone with new teammates, it has the potential for disaster.

The Senators are in a tough spot with Spezza. His inability to gel with his current linemates makes him a target to be traded. But Spezza’s lofty $8 million cap hit in 2009-10 through 2012-13 ($5 million in 2013-14) makes him almost untradeable.

Lack of performance and a massive salary will likely cost the Senators for years to come. The current landscape of the NHL’s salary cap does not allow teams to absorb deals of Spezza’s magnitude and, based on his performance to date, why would any team want to take such a big risk on Spezza?

For Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators, the only friend they have right now is time. Time to find Spezza’s game, time to find some chemistry with his linemates, and time for his contract to expire, which, admittedly, is a lot of time!

Spezza’s lack of results is not solely his fault. A good portion of the blame has to go to his linemates, who, for the most part, have let Spezza down. Alex Kovalev, who was expected to make sweet music with Spezza, has four goals and ten points in 19 games played, a poor showing for a player of Kovalev’s ilk and skills.

With an average of 19:58 in ice-time per game, Spezza is getting premium ice-time with the Sens. Head Coach Cory Clouston has been very patient with Spezza. That said, Spezza’s leash is getting shorter, the collar tighter, and by all accounts, Clouston’s patience, much like Senators general manager Bryan Murray’s, is wearing thin.

With their hands seemingly tied, Sens management will have little choice but to stay the course with their struggling veteran. After all, despite the slogan’s absence, the Senators must remain “a force united.”

Until next time,


Francois Beauchemin Flourishing As Shut-Down Defender

November 27, 2009

by Jon Neely… The stage doesn’t get much bigger than CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada in Toronto on Saturday night. Add in a matchup against the game’s most explosive player, Alexander Ovechkin, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a nationally viewed disaster for a struggling team.

It’s one thing to be the player a coach asks to have the dubious duty of attempting to shut down Ovechkin.

It’s another thing to tell the coach you want to be on the ice every time Ovechkin is; to tell him that you can shut down the league’s best player.

A strong statement, indeed, and one that Francois Beauchemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs made last Saturday night prior to their game against the Washington Capitals.

The Leafs were struggling mightily, last place in the Eastern Conference and coming home after a heart-wrenching shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Not exactly a perfect start coming into a game against the best team in the East.

Before the puck dropped, before the cameras were rolling and the bright lights were shining, and before millions of eyes were focused directly on him, Beauchemin went to coach Ron Wilson and told him that he wanted to go head-to-head against Alex Ovechkin every single shift.

A wish that was granted by the coach, but one that may have been puzzling to fans and media alike had they heard about it before the game.

Coming into his first season with the Leafs, Beauchemin was regarded as a solid defender capable of shutting down opposing players, with a Stanley Cup ring to prove it. But much has been said about Beauchemin’s success largely coming from playing alongside Scott Niedermayer, the future Hall-of-Famer of the Anaheim Ducks.

It didn’t start out well for the 29-year-old, either. Through the first 20 games or so, Beauchemin looked out of place while seemingly trying too hard to make plays that Niedermayer himself wouldn’t even try.

The criticism came early and often and it looked as if the heat was getting to him. Fans feared the worst; could this be yet another overpaid player not able to perform up to expectations?

It certainly seemed that way, but that all changed Saturday night when Beauchemin decided to not only prove his worth to the team, but do it while attempting to shut down the best player in the league in a nationally televised game.

Ovechkin scored early in the game and it looked to be the same old story for the Leafs, who have repeatedly been unable to stop opposing teams’ best players.

Then something strange happened; it was if Ovechkin simply disappeared from the game. Sure, he was on the ice for over 26 minutes and recorded six shots on net, but watching the game you certainly wouldn’t know it.

Ovechkin had been struggling—by his standards—coming into the game, and that could have been a reason for the disappearing act, but when you check the tape you’ll see that it most certainly wasn’t simply an off-game.

Francois Beauchemin was shadowing the Great 8 so tightly you’d think the guy owed him money.

Not only did he keep him from breaking free and getting scoring chances around the net, but he rarely allowed Ovechkin to even gain possession of the puck. An extremely impressive performance by the new Leaf, and one the fans had been waiting for since the season began.

But Beauchemin’s shut-down play didn’t stop there; next up was the New York Islanders and their wonder kid, John Tavares. The coming-home party for the first overall pick in this year’s draft was hoping to impress, coming back to the place where his hockey career began.

But with over 50 friends and family members in the crowd, Tavares did not put on the display they were hoping for. In fact, the kid was essentially invisible for his 17:42 minutes of ice time, thanks to Beauchemin, who kept him in check all night. Tavares had one shot and spent most of his time on the ice in front of the net, as he was swarmed by the new-and-improved Leaf defender.

Then came Monday night in Tampa, against the star-studded cast of the Lightning; the best of which is last year’s first overall pick and budding superstar, Steve Stamkos.

Stamkos did register two assists in the game, but was matched stride-for-stride on each of his 28 shifts—by none other than Beauchemin, once again.

Three straight games against three first overall picks all looking to punish a Leafs defense that has been weak all season, and instead it was like stick-handling in a match box thanks to a man who knew he needed to step up his game; and there’s no better way to test yourself than against the best players in the NHL.

He averaged over 28 minutes of ice time in those three games and was one of, if not the most integral part of the team’s success, and why they secured six of a possible eight points.

It could have failed miserably for Beauchemin and no one would have blinked an eye, because that’s how he’s been playing all season. But instead, the Quebec native challenged himself to be better and not only has he answered the call, but his teammates seem to be following him.

There are plenty of people who can lead in the dressing room, voice their opinion and say all the right things, but a true leader is one who leads by example every night; no matter who they’re up against.

For a man who’s name rolls of the tongue like a butterfly fluttering eloquently through the air, Francois Beauchemin has proved in the last three games that he is a legitimate shut-down defender.

It wasn’t the coach who demanded him to play better, but the player who demanded better play out of himself. That’s what makes a true leader, and that’s what this Leafs team needs if their improved play is to continue.

It’s now up to the rest of the team to take a look in the mirror, too.

UFC 107: Does Frank Mir “Have a Prayer in Memphis” Against Cheick Kongo?

November 27, 2009

by Stoker MacIntosh… The Ultimate Fighting Championship is scheduled to entertain and enlighten us with its 107th event next month, and this time it will illuminate from the FedEx Forum in the beautiful and picturesque city of Memphis, Tenn.

I’ve never visited the American city, yet whenever I hear someone speak of Memphis, I immediately envision the portrait brilliantly painted in the lyrics of the classic song “Walking in Memphis.”

The song was written by American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, from his self-titled 1991 album, and he walked us through Memphis as surely as if we had been there.

I don’t know whether the former UFC heavyweight cagefighting champion Frank Mir ever owned a pair of “Blue Suede Shoes” or not. However, what I do know is that he will undoubtedly have to board a plane next month and “touch down in the land of the Delta Blues” for what will undoubtedly be another tough UFC Octagonal battle.

It may not be “in the middle of the pouring rain,” either, but he is sure to encounter foul weather in the middle of the cage from the 6′4″, 240-pound French kickboxer known as Cheick Kongo.

Mir has been very outspoken recently, regarding his desire to get revenge on the now-sidelined UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, but “first thing’s first,” Mir needs to get past this next huge hurdle.

Kongo is an amazingly conditioned athlete, yet, luckily for Mir, he is a kickboxer with very little experience in submissions. However, he does possess the size, power, and certainly the reach advantage to give Mir trouble should Mir get cocky and try to keep the fight standing.

In a recent video, Mir decides to take a test drive in a bright yellow Lamborghini, and he jokingly refers to Kongo as a great “groin striker,” saying he plans to wear “family jewel protection” with a spike implanted on the surface, just in case.

We sportswriters, most times, try to be as unbiased as possible, but I will admit that I’ve been a fan of Mir since watching his amazing standing arm-bar submission over Tim Sylvia at UFC 48, a move that visually snapped the large bone in Sylvia’s forearm.

Sylvia, another huge fighter at 6′8″, 250 pounds, not unlike Lesnar, was also a dominant UFC champion at the time, but he had recently been stripped of the title for failing a random drug test.

This was the first evidence that Mir was nobody to mess with from the BJJ guard position, and if it weren’t for his career being interrupted by a potentially crippling motorcycle accident, he would have undoubtedly been a dominant champion even back then.

To borrow a line from the greatest heavyweight boxer who ever lived, Muhammad Ali, “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.”

The greatest heavyweight boxer of all time could have easily been describing a former mixed martial arts champion, such as Mir, who has certainly demonstrated rare human qualities—not only in his career, but also in his life.

Life skills which are extremely hard to come by, such as honor, integrity, courage, and a tremendous amount of pride.

His passion for the sport is clearly evident also in his on-air commentating for the lightweight fight promotion known as World Extreme Cagefighting.

I am thoroughly impressed with the detailed job he does, especially during a recent featherweight championship event.

Mir took the time to explain each transition in detail, which is appreciated by laymen such as me who have no formal training in regard to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu side of MMA.

Understandably, Mir is extremely proud of his accomplishments so far. And from watching his fights throughout his career, it seems Mir not only believes he is a winner and a survivor, he has also proven it and lived through it.

As we know—from watching the most recent UFC event—trilogies in fight sports are extremely popular, so, if Mir beats Kongo impressively, he may just find himself in another rubber-match of sorts between him and the behemoth Lesnar.

Or perhaps Mir will face off against a new interim heavyweight champion.

In any event, Mir may not have had a prayer last time out against Lesnar, but that was then, and this is now, and to borrow line from Cohn and his famous song: Mir, “boy you’ve got a prayer in Memphis.”

Raptors’ Road Record Really Sucks!

November 27, 2009

by Stephen Brotherston… On the road, losing with the Raptors. Their road record is now 2-7.

To be fair to Toronto, the NBA handed them a very tough opening road schedule against eight Western Conference clubs to start the season.

And to be fair, the Raptors have been very good at home in the ACC. Plus, no one could realistically be disappointed ahead of time if they knew the Raptors would lose games to Western Conference playoff teams on the road.

But losing to the Memphis Grizzlies isn’t the mark of a team hoping to make the playoffs.  And losing badly to the 5-9 Charlotte Bobcats can only be described as a major disappointment, even on the back-end of a back-to-back.

Wednesday night’s blowout loss, 81-116 to Charlotte, was a Bobcats record.  Not something the Raptors should be proud of.

And the game wasn’t typical of any of Toronto’s games so far this season.

The 81 points scored by Toronto is 25 points below their season average and 10 points lower than any game they have played to-date.  And this comes the day after the Raptors scored 74 points in a half against Indiana.

A scoring drought of this magnitude warrants some investigation.

Against the Bobcats, the hot-shooting Raptors, averaging 47 percent on the season, hit on just 34.5 percent of their shots.  The main causes were:

Target No. 1: Chris Bosh

For the second game in as many nights, Chris Bosh’s shot only found the bottom of the basket five times; a 5-14 night on the heels of Tuesday’s 5-19 performance.  Bosh has still been grabbing rebounds at a career-best rate, but the Raptors rely on Bosh’s scoring, and when he isn’t going, a lot of other things have to go right to get a win.

Target No. 2: Jarrett Jack

Chris Bosh’s college buddy bailed out his teammate on Tuesday with a 7-7 shooting performance.  But on Wednesday, Jack was 1-9 with two turnovers early in the second quarter, while the game was still under control.

Unfortunately, these early turnovers helped to fuel Charlotte’s fast break game that just kept getting stronger as the night wore on.

Target Number 3: Marco Belinelli

Belinelli was cold from the floor for his second game in a row.  But unlike Tuesday, when he made up for his 1-4 shooting by going 8-10 from the line, on Wednesday Belinelli was 2-9 from the floor and 2-2 from the stripe

Target Number 4: DeMar DeRozan

Normally it isn’t fair to point out a poor shooting performance by a rookie.  And the loss to Charlotte had little to do with DeRozan.  But DeRozan usually takes five or six shots per game; on Wednesday, he was 4-12.

Of course, getting blown out usually requires more than just poor shooting.  And lots of other things went wrong for the Raptors.

The Raptors gave up twice their season average in steals to the Bobcats.  Charlotte took 13 balls away from the Raptors and boosted their steals average to 8.1 per game.  And it seemed every steal led to a Bobcats fast break lay-up.

Uncharacteristically leading the Raptors with poor decision-making was Jose Calderon with six turnovers. The Bobcats pressured the Raptors ball-handlers and the Raptors coughed it up!

Unfortunately, Jose was also one a few Raptors doing anything right.  His 3-6 shooting and eight assists did help keep the Raptors in this game early. Maybe he should have shot more?

And Jay Triano seemed lost, frustrated, and confused by Charlotte’s refusal to give this game to the Raptors.

After watching Jarrett Jack start the second quarter 0-3 with two turnovers and Jose Calderon get two more turnovers after replacing Jack, Triano thought the best move was to finish the quarter off with both his point guards on the floor together.  No surprise, this didn’t help.

Perhaps more surprisingly was that Triano’s only reliable scorer in the first half barely saw the floor in the second half.

In the first half, Bargnani shot 6-10 for 15 points, leading the Raptors in scoring.  Playing only eight minutes in the second half and getting just two shots, Triano benched his only effective offensive threat.  And he did it while the game was still well within reach at 68-59 Bobcats in the third quarter.

With an explanation that smacks of desperation, Triano had a lineup of Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Jarrett Jack, and Sonny Weems to close out the third quarter.

Triano says he was looking for energy.  Maybe there is energy in that lineup, but who exactly is going to be putting the ball in the hole?

Is it any real surprise that the Bobcats went on a scoring spree in the second half of the third to go up 85-67?

The fourth quarter began with Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Chris Bosh, and Pops Mensah-Bonsu on the floor.

As anyone who follows these posts or has read Hollinger’s analysis of the Jack-Calderon lineups knows, everybody scores more against the Raptors when Jose and Jarrett play together.

Plus, down by 18 points, where was the Raptors’ leading scorer in this game? With Bosh unable to hit a shot, why was the hot-shooting Bargnani nailed to the bench?

The Bobcats cruised to 35-point victory in the fourth, with the Raptors who got to play barely putting up a fight.

To put the game in context, this is just a road loss on a back-to-back, but it is still a bad loss.

Maybe the Raptors’ players were suffering from the effects of playing back-to-back games, but one doesn’t expect the coaching staff to be out of it!

However, all will be forgotten with a good outing against the Celtics on Friday and a win Sunday at home against the Suns.

Toronto Maple Leafs Are Looking To Get Their Roll On

November 26, 2009

by Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano… After getting 61 shots on Dwayne Roloson and the Islanders though losing 4-3, the Leafs continued getting pucks to the net against Antero Nittymaki and Lightening. This time 35 was enough to find success in a 4-3 win of their own.

The Leafs got their first win of the year on the road in Anaheim and that began a streak of seven games of at least one point, unfortunately for Leafs Nation mostly one point.

The Leafs now have points in four straight games, including two wins. In 23 total games, they have points in six of 12 on road game while at home they have points in only four of 11.

Four of the next five games are on the road, three of those five are against divisional opponents and should prove to be feisty games.

First Toronto will finish the two-game Florida tour with a matchup against the Panthers Friday before then making a quick stop at home against Buffalo Monday.

Florida has been better on the road this year and is only 3-5-2 at home, though they have points in their last four games at the BankAtlantic Center, only one was a win. They do, however, have points in eight straight games and have seemingly gotten the right motivation from second year head coach Peter DeBoer after a slow start.

Buffalo sits in third and just two points off the Northeast division lead, though were on top for most of the first quarter of the season. They got off to one of the hottest starts in the league which has since cooled as many predicted. They have lost two in a row and are just 4-5-1 in their last ten, but they have games in hand, and have only played 21 thus far.

They then get back on the road for three, starting in Montreal.

I am sure the Leafs will want some revenge for the two losses the Habs have handed them this year. The last of which the Leafs lost in a shootout at the Bell Centre, the very building they will do battle in on Tuesday Dec. 1.

The inconsistent goal scoring and keeping for the Canadians has them sitting right at .500 on the year at 12-12-1 with a 7-5-1 record at home. I expect a physical game played much in Montreal’s zone as most of the past two meetings were, yet this time the results may be different.

With a day of rest and travel the Leafs land in Columbus Ohio to take on the Blue Jackets on Dec 3. Columbus can’t seem to hold a lead as of late and have blown three straight game when having the early lead though still hold a record of 12-8-3.

Recently, their young Russian sniper Nikita Filatov must have missed his mother’s goulash enough to go back to Russia and play in the KHL, on loan for the time being. This could possibly a good spot to catch a team that is reeling from some bad losses if that trend continues for the Blue Jackets.

Finally with another day of rest and travel, the Leafs finish this little five-game stint against the now Northeast division leading Bruins. Boston, who has been surging as of late going 6-1-3 in their last ten has won four in a row as well. This will be in my mind the biggest test of all as the Bruins play a very structured game and beat the Leafs soundly in two of their three meetings in Boston last year.

Given, there is time between now and the end of this five game stretch for many things to happen too all teams involved that may or may not drastically affect the Leafs chances of winning or losing these game.

Thankfully, 2012 is still a few years off, and I haven’t heard of any comets nearing the earth, at least at this point.

Toronto, at times seems to have the right parts and then all of a sudden someone at Ikea put half the pieces of two shelving units into the box just to screw with you, and nothing seems to work.

The Leafs are playing well though, as of late, and if the defensive side of their game with the Monster looking over the lair can find a groove and the offence bulges the twine instead of just leading the league in shots, the Leafs could add some notches to the win column and certainly get their roll on.

Time To Step Up, “Superstar”

November 26, 2009

by Jeremy Visser… Yeah, so the Raptors were pounded last night in Charlotte. How does that happen, even on the road and in the second of a back-to-back? Well, here’s how: The team just ain’t that good. And what’s this breakout year everyone is talking about Chris Bosh having? The team is 7-9! Not sure if you recall, but last November Bosh had even better numbers than these, then got tired at the end of the month and limped the rest of the way home. If you’re a superstar, CB, then let’s see it. Win some games.

Anyway, that’s my opening rant. I’m probably overreacting, because realistically this is a slightly-better-than .500 team and that’s probably where it’ll end up at the end of the year. Still, last night’s effort in Charlotte was embarrassing. After making an apparent first quarter defensive stand, the Raps let their guard down, allowing the Bobcats — a team that had scored 100-plus three times in 14 games and never more than 104 this season — to score 116 and set franchise-record with a 35-point win. Toronto shot a season-low 34.5% from the field and was out-boarded 49-42.

There isn’t much use going around pointing fingers, since this was just an all-around ugly effort. Jose Calderon had six turnovers, Chris Bosh was held without a field goal until right before halftime, big-time free agent signing Hedo Turkoglu had five points and no rebounds and the bench, aside from Amir Johnson, combined to shoot 4-of-27. Johnson was the only real bright spot, finishing with 13 points, eight boards and three blocks in 23 minutes.

As bad as that was, it may get worse — the Raps are off today but are in Boston to face the Celtics tomorrow. How about this is where you prove you’re a star in this league, CB4?

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