Archive for August, 2011
Monday, August 22nd, 2011
By: David Alter
Several Maple Leafs were on the Ice at MasterCard Centre getting ready for training camp. Among them, Phil Kessel who’s hoping he can become more consistent. I asked Kessel if there was one particular element to his game he was putting emphasis on? He responded with looking for more consistency when it comes to goal scoring.
“Not go through some stretchs where I could have had a couple of goals here and there” says Kessell referring to his goal-scoring droughts. “I’m just trying to improve my overall game.”
Kessel went 14 games without a goal last season, the new acquisitions of Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi (pending recovery from concussion) could help in eliminating that.
“I’m sure I’m going to start the year with Tim (Connolly)” says Kessel. Which could mean Tyler Bozak finds himself on a third line.
Colby Armstrong looked good on the ice, showing no ill effects of his foot which he broke near the end of the season.
Download 1-on-1 with Colby Armstrong
Jonas Gustavsson is now the longest serving Leafs netminder, serving two seasons with the big club. He won’t necessarily embrace a leadership role, instead focusing his efforts on trying to get in as many games as possible as James Reimer’s backup.
Download 1-on-1 with Jonas Gustavsson
Friday, August 19th, 2011
By: David Alter
The Toronto Argonauts managed to hold of the Saskatchewan Roughriders with a 24-18 win at Rogers Centre, snapping a six-game losing skid. For awhile it looked like this was going to come easy as the Boatmen looked like a team much better than their record indicated at 1-6, while the Riders let turnovers and penalties get the best of them…Then the fourth quarter happened.
Carrying a 21-1 lead after three quarters of play, the Riders slowly but effectively started picking apart the Argonauts defence. First, Darian Durant connected with Chris Getzlaf for a 70-yard TD pass. After an Argo two-and-out, the Riders marched up the field allowing for former Argo James Robinson to find the endzone for a 21-yard TD Reception. The combined back-to-back touchdown drives helped in erasing a deficit cutting the Argos lead down to six points.
Inside a couple of minutes, the Argos offence is stopped on their secnd consecutive two-and-out, and the Riders are given one more shot with about a minute and-a-half left on the clock. The Riders would get the ball deep in Argo territory but the defence managed to get a couple of stops in the endzone, as the Riders turn it over on downs, and the game was decided.
Evan McCollough made a big impact in his return from injury. On the second-to-last Riders attempt, McCollough stopped Chris Getzlaf from a sure touchdown that would have secured it for Saskatchewan. Byron Parker responded to internal criticism from Head Coach Jim Barker, and had the game’s only interception. So when it came down to it, the defence did improve its’ performance.
The Argos won the turnover battle 4-0, and Saskatchewan killed themselves early with penalties, making 11 infractions for 99 yards lost. Toronto had five penalties, but only lost 30 yards.
Cleo Lemon didn’t have that spectacular 300+ yard game many may have expected but he made the best with what he was seeing. The Riders were playing a zone-defence so Lemon was forced to go underneath with short passes and go to the run. The only criticism really comes from why the offence wasn’t able to respond to Saskatchewan’s hot scoring in the fourth quarter.
Cory Boyd solid when he needed to be rushing for a pair of touchdowns, but limited to just 45 yards. He feels he could of done more. He also got involved in a bit of an argument at the end of the game with Special Teams coach Mike O’Shea, but when he was asked about it, all he said was he “didn’t know anything about it.”
Thursday, August 18th, 2011
By: David Alter
Despite a 1-6 record, the Argos can move into a playoff spot with a win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Funny how that works, but the Argos, Roughriders as well as the B.C. Lions have identical records and at least one of them has to advance to the post-season. The next four Argo games feature these two opponents.
Over the last couple of weeks, we really have seen the best of Cleo Lemon in his tenure as Argonauts quarterback. His ability to stretch the field and move the ball has allowed the offence put up numbers unlike anything we really saw last season. Cleo Lemon’s QB rating last year was 78.1. Despite leading the Argos to the CFL East Final, Head Coach Jim Barker told Lemon that he was not going to be the #1 QB going into next season, and that he would once again have to earn the job out of camp… Lemon did just that. Even though Lemon struggled again out of the gate, he responded to Barker’s threat of losing his job by putting up great numbers.
Through the last 2.25 games (the quarter being the one he chipped his tooth in), Lemon is 56/82 with 5TD and 740yards with a QB rating of 111.8. Lemon has responded with his back against the wall. The only unfortunate part is that it hasn’t translated to victory.
This will be Orlondo Steinauer’s second game since being installed as the new Defensive Coordinator. The defence clearly had its hands full when it came to handling the Ticats offence. The new D.C. will have Evan McCollough back in the starting secondary which should help.
Steinauer is trying to implement more of the attacking the quarterback style that he was used to in his playing days, and he’ll need to against an explosive Saskatchewan offence that can spread the field around as good as any team with weapons like Darian Durant and Weston Dressler. If the defence makes as many mistakes against the the Riders like they did against Hamilton, this game won’t even be close.
While the offence still needs to improve when it comes to ball control, a big problem this season has been the defence’s inability to get takeaways. The best chance for the Argos ability to get this done will be when the Riders elect to run. Saskatchewan will go with rookie RB Brandon West in the backfield. The third string runningback is making his first start thanks to injuries to go-to back Wes Cates and backup Hugh Charles. Being a third-stringer means you don’t get a lot of reps and that’s something the Argo defence can try to exploit. If they can, it’ll give the defence some much needed confidence.
These next four game should separate this current three-way tie for the basement. How the Argos respond over the next month is critical. If they improve on takeaways while keeping the offence consistent, it will go a long way.
Monday, August 8th, 2011
By: David Alter
With the top 8 seeds getting a rest, the other seeded players struggled mightily on Day 1 at the Rogers Cup at York University…
The only seeded player to move on was Australia’s Samantha Stosur who beat Ayumi Morita of Japan 4-6, 6-2 and 6-3.
After that match, the contenders began to fall.
Ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli fell to Galina Voskoboeva of Khazkhastan 6-3, 6-3.
Simona Halep then beat 12th-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Maria Jose MaRtinez Sanchez was a three-set winner over Anatasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. 15th-seeded Jelena Jankovic, playing in her first tournament since Wimbledon fell completely flat, losing to un-seed Julia Goerges 6-1-3.
Canada’s Rebecca Marino had the best chance to go a few rounds at this tournament, but a closely contested match with Ekaterina Makarova ended with a loss in straight sets.
Some of the higher seeds get ready for action on Day 2. Check out the video to hear from (IN ORDER) 4. Victoria Azarenka, 6. Li Na, 3. Vera Zvonereva, 2. Kim Clijsters, 8. Francesca Schiavone, 7. Petra Kvitova, 5. Maria Sharapova, 1. Caroline Wozniacki
Friday, August 5th, 2011
By: David Alter
Losing five straight games, Argos Head Coach Jim Barker saw the offence progressing while the defence was getting worse. After digesting the home loss to Montreal, Barker decided to relieve Chip Garber as Defensive Coordinator, and install DB coach Orlondo Steinauer into Garber’s old spot.
Orlondo Steinauer says he doesn’t have a timetable for how he wants to go about putting things in place. He does point out that the issues on defence are more on the team as a whole, and not on one individual.
Of note, Barker says when Garber was hired, he initially offered the DC job to two others, before Garber came in recommended by somebody else. Barker also felt that Steinauer thought he may be ready to be a DC, but needed more time and experience to prove himself. Now the defence solely falls on Orlondo.
Friday, August 5th, 2011
By: David Alter
The Argos went back and forth with the Alouettes in the first half of the ball game, until a disastrous third quarter from Toronto ultimately allowed Montreal to pull away and end their mini-two game losing streak. Argos lose 36-23, dropping their fifth straight.
Cleo Lemon delivered one of his best games as an Argo to date. He effectively moved the ball focusing on his strengths and didn’t appear to miss a beat….That was until the third quarter when everything that could go wrong for the Argos…did.
The protection wasn’t there as Montreal’s defence took it to Toronto. Several times Lemon was left exposed including a time where he sacked by two players, and actually showed his frustration shoving Diamond Ferri in retaliation as a move to try and fire up his team.
Chad Kackert wasn’t as effective as he had been previously, and he was in the middle of a bizarre play the end the first half. With six seconds left on the clock before the break, the Argos could have elected to take a 48-yard field goal which would have reduced Montreal’s lead from seven to four. Instead, the Argos try one more play to Kackert who would try to get better position. The only problem was Kackert out and slid in bound. He thought he was down with one second left on the clock, but it read zero, and the Argos came up with nothing on that.
Jeremaine Copeland was the leading receiver for the Argos with with six receptions for 78 yards. He had a critical drop on Cleo Lemon’s only blemish, where the ball bounced off Copeland’s fingertips and went straight to the hands of Billy Parker of Montreal. The ensuing drive allowed Montreal’s to break a 10-10 tie, and never give up the lead again.
Andre Durie injured his arm during the game, and while he was able to continue playing, he’ll have to undergo further tests to see if he’ll miss anytime. It all happened when he made a catch on concrete and slipped awkwardly.
Thursday, August 4th, 2011
By: David Alter
The Argos take on the Alouettes tonight in what has the feel of a must win for both teams going into it.
After a season opening win in Calgary, the Argos have lost four straight. While Montreal is coming off their second straight loss, the Alouettes haven’t dropped two straight games since the end of the 2008 season.
Cleo Lemon makes his return and will need to make an immediate impact. The Argos starting QB was on a short leash going into their home opener in Winnipeg, and he performed well going 5-5 for 58 yards passing before being hit in the face by Bombers linebacker Joe Lobendahn, splitting his tooth.
Cory Boyd will sit out once again as he continues to rehab a knee injury. Boyd has been back practicing and should make his return next week in Hamilton. That means Chad Kackert will be the go-to tailback again. Kackert is coming off Offensive Player of the Week honours for his two touchdown performance in a losing cause, but he has had ball-control issues. Turnovers have cost the Argos in the first part of the season. The QB’s have been picked off seven times through the first five games, four times over the past two games.
Argos Head Coach Jim Barker doesn’t feel any sort of panic or urgency to get a win to stop this current losing streak. His team has been in all of the games and the teams at the top of the CFL right now speak to the kind of parity we are seeing this year.
The Montreal O-Line has looked weAk over the past two games and it’s no secret that they are playing hurt. If the Argos front four can exploit that much like Hamilton did last week, they have a shot at handing the Alouettes their third straight loss.