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Humiliations a la Murray, Maple Leafs 5, Senators 1
posted Apr 15, 2006 at 11:37PM

Well you know I have much to say ... but looking over my posts since this blog has started, I can only say that Murray is an idiot so many times, in only so many ways. Murray made it clear that he considered this just another game. Really? Martin was fired for losing these kinds of games. Murray was hired to win these games. Only Neil understood what was at stake and stressed the need for Ottawa to take this opportunity to dispose of the Leafs threat.

Thank God for Martin St-Louis. I would not have given a fig's leave for our chances against the Leafs in a playoff series. Tonight we looked like lambs being sent out to slaughter.

The only good thing about tonight's loss is that it showed Murray that his proposed line combinations were a total failure. It is obvious that in his mind, a line is a pair of players and a sore thumb.

For the record the line combinations were as follows

The Big Line
Schaefer - Smolinski - Havlat
Neil - Fisher - Eaves
Vermette - Kelly - Varada

The Big Line did score our only goal. For a good portion of the game they looked like a line that had not played together for quite awhile. And of course that is the case. They seemed to get some of their mojo back by the third period but by then it was way too little too late.

But right now the top line in hockey is suffering from a minor to middling case of rust.

Why Smolinski in between Havlat and Schaefer? I know I disqualified him for the simple reason is that he is too slow. Murray liked him because "he doesn't have the speed, but is a veteran who is steady".

I am sorry but there are only two available centers who can keep up, much less play with Havlat and Schaefer. Those two are Fisher or Vermette. Put any of these two in there and you have one of the fastest lines in the league, and in hockey, speed is a great advantage. Our speed is something we leveraged at the beginning of the season to our great success. Now we are going out of our way to negate it.

What was the third line about? I don't believe it has ever even tried before, and why would you?. It looks like an ad hoc combination, and that is exactly how they played. I don't think they connected on two consecutive passes the whole game. It is hard to say who was the sore thumb here. Fisher desperately tried to get things going with some solo efforts. Eaves for the first time this season, looked like a mesmerized rookie. Neil, the only one who seemed to take umbrage at the Senators getting slaughtered, was just flailing about trying to kill someone.

Neil-Fisher-Eaves scares no one. Just a simple change could have changed that. Imagine a line of Vermette-Fisher and Eaves. There is a whole new speed and skill dynamic that is in place.

And there is something very wrong when Eaves is on the first unit power play and Fisher is completely shut out from this special team. Fisher may only have two more goals, but have no doubts, he is twice the player that Eaves is.

And am I the only one who noticed that our power play started going again the second they had put Neil up there with Spezza and Heatley, and it has completely disappeared the minute they took him off the power play?.

Then we had our fourth line. This blog has spent a lot of time detailing what an offensive failure the line of Eaves-Kelly and Varada have been. As much as I like Vermette, I see no difference with him in there in place of Eaves. There was one play where Vermette set up Varada perfectly in the slot. If that was Arnason or Eaves, it would have been in.

You know Vermette has had only two brief periods with any line stability. Once was when he was with Schaefer and Havlat at the beginning of the season. He scored five goals in about eleven games. The second time was just after the Olympic break when he played with Kelly and Schubert. Here he scored five goals in six games. Two thirds of his even strength goals were put together in very short periods of time. Bring back call-up Novak, put Schubert in with Kelly and Vermette and we have a proven line, that can score goals.

The only good thing about this game was that Mach 9 made his return and made it through with no adverse effect. He was visibly "off" at the start of the game but you could see him improve as the game wore on. He was starting to look like his old self by the end of the game.

Is it time to panic? Yes of course it is. Not lose your head panic, but intelligent panic. The urgency required to at least admit something is not right.

We are lucky. A few simple line changes can solve a lot of near term problems and can get us back to where we were at the beginning of the season, if not even better. Of course the longer term problems won't be solved until later this summer, when Murray should be given his walking papers.

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