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Family feud

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I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.

- Pedro Martinez

Everyone’s got a daddy. Ryan Miller is Toronto’s. Twenty-four wins, and a .931 save percentage, in 32 career games against the Maple Leafs; a formality when the two teams hook up. Looking at Miller’s splits, his track record against the Northeast Division is stellar:

VS Boston: 19-5-7, .914 SV%

VS Montreal: 18-8-5, .919 SV%

VS Ottawa: 12-15-2, .914 SV%

Go figure, the Senators are the only team Miller loses to with any regularity.

Enough about Miller, though. In the aftermath of another Leafs beating at the hands of the Sabres, it’s not all bad news. Phil Kessel and Ron Wilson are feuding, with Kessel being demoted to a new line in practice, leading to #81′s now infamous quip: “Me and Ron don’t really talk — that’s all I got to say about that.”

Dysfunction! It’s entertaining. Wilson vs. Kessel is fantastic, because it’s a battle Wilson cannot, under any circumstances, win. Brian Burke and Ron Wilson may be BFFs, but Burke’s got only one horse in that race.

Also, a query: What the hell does a demotion from a line with Tyler Bozak and Joey Crabb look like? Ah, Darryl Boyce in the middle, instead of Bozak. Right. And here I was all excited that the Crabb and Kessel experiment was over, after Wilson finally moved Crabb off the line Saturday night in the second period.

Kessel’s right; it’s not working out. Crabb’s played 20 games with the Leafs, the majority of them on a line with Kessel, and hasn’t scored a goal. Kessel is goalless since January 11th, when the Leafs were on the west coast road trip of our dreams. I know Kris Versteeg’s found some chemistry on a line with Colby Armsrong, but when the Leafs are so thin up front, trying to spread the offence over three lines isn’t an option. What happened to the top six, bottom six mantra? Versteeg on the left wing, Kessel on the right, and Bozak in the middle. If that’s not an option, and Wilson wants to keep Versteeg and Armstrong together, I’d rather see Nazem Kadri playing on the wing instead of Crabb. And at what point does the Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur line have to be split up in order to get Kessel going? That -22 is murdering the hopes and dreams of kids across the land, and my fantasy team.

It came as no surprise that the Maple Leafs followed up their best effort of the season Saturday night with one of their worst. It was a game full of poor decision making, fanned shots and passes, and a ton of turnovers. A humble reminder that we are Leafs fans, and that, no, we can’t have nice things.

James Reimer’s candidacy to lead our great nation is on hold. Until he wins his next game. But it really doesn’t matter who’s in net when: a) Luke Schenn and Armstrong choose to go up the middle in their own zone; and b) the Leafs can’t kill penalties.

I don’t know about you, but the past five years have made everything seem daunting. An 82-83% penalty kill rate? Only in my dreams.

Penalty Killing:

2005/2006: 80%

2006/2007: 78.5%

2007/2008: 78%

2008/2009: 74.7%

2009/2010: 74.7%

2010/2011: 76.9%

The standings are that much more disheartening. Five games above .500? An impossible mountain to climb.

Send help.

Image courtesy Mike Bayne.

Written by Navin Vaswani

February 7th, 2011 at 11:55 am