With the playoffs set to get going tonight, and the Leafs vs. Bruins on tap for Wednesday, I figure that this is a good time to take a quick pause and look back at the regular season that was.
I’m sure that after the playoffs are over we’ll take another look back and evaluate things on a bigger scale, but for now I just want to reflect on some games that I feel produced some key moments for the team, and just as importantly, the fans.
Yes, I know that all games are worth the same amount of points in the standings, but most fans will tell you that only a few will really stand out even after the season is over. Here are a few games that stood out to me, for better or worse.
Taking Pittsburgh to a shootout (March 9th)
I was at an IceCaps (AHL) game when this one was happening. We were in the company booth and had this game on the television. Honestly, I can’t tell you who the IceCaps were even playing that night because I was too busy watching Leafs-Penguins. The Leafs were in the middle of what would become a five-game slump, and went down early in this one, 3-1 after the first period, then 4-2 in the second. I thought the game was over when I left to head home, but by the time I got to my house the second was over and they were within one. A really good showing in the third period resulted in a late tying goal from Kessel and forced overtime, where the Leafs continued to look strong. They dropped the game in the shootout, but it was definitely a relief to get a point against such a strong opponent that looked to have the game in the bag early, and it continued to show that the Leafs can score goals with the best of them.
Three points from the Bruins (March 23-25)
It’s pretty obvious why this was important. The Leafs had failed to beat the Bruins in about 136 years and we all just assumed that these were four points that were not available. Grabbing three was a huge bonus, and helped spark the run that saw the Leafs lose only once in regulation in a month.
Blowout win against the Habs (February 9th)
I was at this game, in Montreal, so it’ll always be favorite of mine until I’m in the cold ground. This one had a lot going on. Colton Orr one-punched Rene Bourque in to dust, Frazer McLaren laughed his ass off while Josh Gorges tried to fight him, and Grabovski was accused of biting Max Pacioretty. Oh, and the Leafs embarrassed the Canadiens 6-0 in their own barn. It was an exciting game and one that has a little bit more meaning now that both teams are headed to the playoffs.
Kadri rips up the Senators (March 30th)
This was the first time I felt, as a fan, like the Leafs were finally back. Seriously. It was Hockey Night in Canada and Kadri went on an absolute rampage. I was out playing poker and watching the game that night with a few other big Leafs fans, and I remember jokingly saying to one of them before the game “Well, Kadri hasn’t scored in a couple games, so he’s due for five points.” He got four, including a hat-trick. Then Cherry brought Kadri in to the Coach’s Corner studio and kissed him on the cheek, and history was made.
Isles torch the Leafs in Toronto (January 24th)
It can’t all be roses. This game early in the season sticks out to me because I distinctly remember feeling like the Leafs’ goaltending could be a disaster again. The Leafs went up 3-1 early at home, and then Scrivens got absolutely lit up by the Islanders for five before being pulled. Reimer came in and got beat clean by Moulson for the sixth Islanders’ goal, and the “here we go again” feeling swept over the fan-base. “Go Jays go” even started up in the ACC late in the third period. How hilarious is that now?
Leafs win one, but lose big against the Flyers (February 11th)
The Leafs looked good in this game, and won it handedly, but Reimer went down with a knee injury and I’ll admit, I panicked. Big time. This game wasn’t too long after the one against Islanders I just mentioned, and the image of Scrivens letting in all those weak goals gave me nightmares. Luckily, our fears of Reimer being out for the season were put to rest the next day when it was explained that he’d only be out a week or so. Scrivens came in and played well, keeping the Leafs afloat and reeling off a couple of shutouts along the way until Reimer’s return late in February. I feel like Scrivens’s play allowed the Leafs to take their time with Reimer and ensure he was 100% before returning. Well, actually 110%, because we know Carlyle doesn’t settle for just a lousy one-hundred.
Before we head in to the playoffs, where the Leafs will surely be involved in some new memorable games one way or another, it’s good to look back and see what got them here. As I’m sure everyone is aware, there were some nervous moments, but also some times where it felt really good to be a Leafs fan again after a few rough years.
Have a game from 2013 that you think belongs in this list? Drop it in the comments.