Line-up Note: Tim Brent has been recalled from the Marlies and will feature tonight. He has recorded 26 points in 35 games this season, third on the team among active Marlies. Caputi or Primeau will sit according to AM640′s Jonas Siegel.
The planets have aligned and the gods of hockey have shined their countenance upon the Leafs. Considering of course the various permutations that have to yet play out, it could still end up for nought at the close of play Sunday night. But after a favourable series of results, Toronto now has the chance to topple the Montreal Canadiens wavering playoff aspirations and boy do they owe the fans a blistering performance to give the Leafs faithful some tangible highlight from a season resplendent in lows.
Following the Habs comprehensive defeat at the hands of a torn up Carolina Hurricanes side on Thursday, the Rangers kept their hopes of ousting the Canadiens alive by defeating Philadelphia Friday night. Now Montreal, Philadelphia, New York and Boston all find themselves teetering on the bubble with the Leafs playing potential spoiler to a Canadiens team that has fallen 3-4-3 down the home straight.
Come tonight only a regulation victory for the baby Buds will keep MontrÃ©alais awaking with hangovers Sunday morning. Meanwhile, for the Canadiens to slip from the top 8 completelyÂ come Sunday evening, the Rangers would have to repeat over the Flyers; but only with Philadelphia securing the extra overtime point, thus equalling Montrealâ€™s point total with a superior number of wins. Furthermore, the offensively wretched Bruins have to secure a single point in their final two games either at home against Carolina this afternoon or, less likely, on the road to the Capâ€™s and the Art Ross chasing Alex Ovechkin tomorrow on NBC.
Regardless of the headache inducing mathematical gymnastics; and the unlikely series of events that have to occur after the Leafs final outing of their season, this one final significant game boils down to pride and knowing you did all you could to down a rival. This one game is for Leafs Nation; our playoffs.
Call it petty mindedness or gamesmanship, or call it a statement of intent; for a Leafs team that has looked so depressingly flat following that short pulse of life out of the Olympic break this game could go a long way to righting some of the many wrongs that have emanated, not just from this season, but from the five previous campaigns that ended in such abject failure.
Maybe thatâ€™s dramatic hyperbole, but the performance tonight (be it good or bad) in such a vital game for the franchises conscience, will resonate throughout the summer dealings louder than any of the dismal displays that preceded it and perhaps, in a small way, set a tone for next year. With questions concerning the mentality of the club and the passion and value of many of its player; this game will provide a testing ground for those that can withstand and thrive under pressure and those that simply canâ€™t. In that respect, tonight can be viewed as a pitch to those of us that have hung on through the thick and the thin(nest) as to how dedicated this team and this coach are to being contenders.
So hereâ€™s to a moral victory, getting one up on the Canadiens and ending with panache. If this group of players, this dressing room and this coaching team canâ€™t get fired up for a game like this, then perhaps it never will.