Now in his third season with Leafs TV, you can watch Brian Duff hosting pre- and post-game shows for all the breaking news surrounding the Blue and White.
January 5, 2004 TORONTO --
While many teams, players, and coaches complain about their schedule I, on the other hand, have no such grumbles. Being slotted to write this week allows me to break down the Leafs and the league at the half-way point of the season. Talk about a no-brainer!
As a team, they hit the 40-game mark (I know, not the true half-way point) just a point shy of it's best "first forty" in franchise history.
Given the road heavy first half, the next 3 months feature plenty of games at home (where they've not lost in regulation since November 1) and plenty of winnable games. It's never smart to circle the calendar looking for guaranteed wins, but there are no good reasons for this team winning fewer than 22 games in the second half.
Without ties and bonus points, that would leave the club with 97 points. Will that be enough to hold off the Senators? Probably not.
Yes they are winless without Robert Reichel, but that will change this week.
And while the Owen Nolan injury creates another large void, team resiliency always finds a way to plug a hole and keep moving forward. Notable numbers from the first half:
16 goals from Gary Roberts, who's on pace for 32. That's pretty impressive for a 37 year-old, who's not topped 30 since the spring of 1994. (It would also give him 401 goals for his career, just another milestone in a season that will see him reach 1000 games played in less than 2 weeks)
14 goals from Darcy Tucker. On pace for a career year offensively, and still playing on the edge, if not over it.
Eight power-play goals from Roberts. Not only significant for Gary (who's career best is 15 in one year), but also for a team that now has the confidence to score at least one per game when on the man advantage.
37 games played for Matt Stajan. Many wondered how much of an impact this now 20 year-old could have on a veteran team, but it's quite clear that his youthful energy has been, not only contagious at times, but necessary. Great teams need a good mix, and Stajan is a key ingredient.
Six game-winning goals from Mats Sundin. Just 20 games ago he had only one. Now he leads the league in GWGs, and has produced more third-period points than anyone in the league.
2.27, .915, 18. Pick a number from Ed Belfour's stat line and you have to respect it. Have there been glitches? Of course. Is he among the top five goalies in the league? Same answer. The least of the Leafs' worries is in goal.
Around the league, there are many more numbers that stand out and are deserving of more attention:
22-24-46. Ilya Kovalchuk leading the Thrashers and the league is an amazing individual effort.
41 points in 34 games. And a plus 19! If the Kings make the playoffs, Ziggy Palffy is the Hart Trophy winner.
600. The number of man-games the Kings may lose to injury. Which is why they probably won't make the playoffs.
41 points in 39 games by Captain Coyote. On a team picked by many to finish last in the West, Shane Doan is the man. They're not in the top eight yet, but if they get there, the Hart may not go to a Ziggy for the first time.
2.09 GAA., and .926 SV %. HC Davos could have used homegrown netminder David Aebischer at the Spengler Cup!
14, 15, and 15. Number of games played respectively by Hasek, Legace, and Joseph in the Red Wings goal. I wonder if Detroit fans like any of them at this point.
13 goals by Ronald Petrovicky. Don't worry, I looked it up. He plays for Atlanta and had just 14 goals in his three-year career prior to this season.
13 goals also applies to Sheldon Souray, and for that we say congratulations to the Habs defenceman.
Seven goals by Joe Thornton. Seven goals by Joe Thornton? Seven goals by Joe Thornton! (the latter courtesy of Bruins' coach Mike "I wouldn't want to be me" O'Connell)
12 goals by Shean Donovan. A two-week wonder, Donovan still shares the Flames lead in goal scoring. And if that continues, the Flames will miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season.
Eight goals combined by Jeff O'Neill and Rod Brind'Amour. Merry Christmas Paul Maurice. Happy New Year Peter Laviolette.
23 goals and four assists. The hard numbers for Rick Nash, who might soon be getting a call from the Blue Jays.
16 goals by Kris Draper. Can you say, curtain call?
10 points from Marian Gaborik. Hope he's enjoying his new contract. I know one team that isn't wild about it.
15 goals from an Islanders rookie. Trent Hunter will become the hunted in the second half if this pace continues.
Two games played. One bad elbow. The Senators need Mike Fisher more than they know.
There are some remarkable, and unremarkable stories being written in all 30 NHL cities. Enjoy the second half as the real push for the playoffs begins. "