May 4th, 2004.
Both teams, tired and weary from what had already been a long, arduous road, a journey that had left both teams battered and bruised. Â The teams went back and forth, showing tremendous heart and determination, showing what it takes to win hockey games at this time of year.
Up the ice they went, rewarded with a good scoring chance, but stopped by a goaltender who was up to the task. Â Then down the ice the other way, another good chance, this time for the other team. Â The goalie in this net, equally up to the task of making the save and preserving life, for at least another moment.
Quickly, and in a whirlwind of emotion, it was over. [more…]
Hopes and expectations are that the conclusion of the 2010-11 season will see the Maple Leafs Â return to playoff action for the first time since Jeremy Roenick ended the Leafs' 2004 post-season run in overtime of game six on May 4, 2004.
Many factors led to the Leafs' demise during the 2009-10 campaign, which ultimately meant theÂ relinquishmentÂ of Tyler Seguin to the Boston Bruins. Inconsistency was the primary issue, as many key players wereÂ ineffectiveÂ or downright useless---I'm looking at you, Vesa Toskala. The off-season acquisitions of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin had fans salivating at the potential of the team's defense corps. However, things took an unfortunate turn for the worse when both defensemen---it was later revealed Komisarek required season-ending surgery for a pre-existing shoulder injury--- struggledÂ mightily out of the gate. Moreover, the combination of Toskala's horrendous goaltending and Luke Schenn feeling the early effects of the dreaded sophomore slump only added to the nightmarish start to the season. Leafs fans had toÂ endure seven torturous games before the club posted its first win. To put it simply, the Leafs didn't even take a step forward before they crashed and burned.
Remember Jimmy Hayes?Â He was the Leafs 2nd round pick in 2008, a burgeoning power forward who struggled last season in his freshman campaign with the Boston College Eagles as he adjusted to the NCAA game.
Consider those struggles a thing of the past.
Hayes was fantastic in the Hockey East Championship this past week as his team captured their ninth tournament victory, an NCAA record.Â Oh, and you may be interested to know that his 2 goals and 5 assists (in 4 games) led all tournament point-getters.
Phew. Finally a chance to catch our breath after what was perhaps the best 2nd round of playoff hockey ever played. We were treated to three 7 game series, 9 overtime periods, and an epic showdown between the league's premier young rivals, Crosby and Ovechkin. Perhaps overshadowed by all the intensity and exciting finishes, is a fairly simple underlying theme: Youth.