It wasn’t the fairytale ending to the story of the young team that could.
You try to take solace and satisfaction in the promise of a strong second half of the season, but for the true fan the cold-hard, mathematical reality that the Leafs are not making the playoffs always, without exception, hits home like a ton of bricks. Any fan of any team in any sport can be heard saying “there’s always next year” when their team experiences such a failure but for Leafs fans that consolation seems to ring particularly true this April.
James Reimer’s scintillating performance in the Leafs’ final meaningful game of the season – at least it started out that way – symbolized the mixed emotions Leafs Nation is currently experiencing. If he wasn’t already lovable enough, after posting a 39-save performance Reimer humbly told reporters last night it was too bad “we” put “ourselves” in such a predicament as if he had anything to do with the Leafs’ 13-19-4 record in the 2010 portion of the season that proved too much to overcome despite a 24-13-7 2011 – 20 of those wins belonging to the one we call Optimus Reim. It’s really too bad they were working with such a deficit because Reimer’s Leafs deserved the playoffs and when the Leafs are there the league is certainly better for it.
For some reason the top teams in the East chose their off nights for games relevant to the Leafs and their playoff push; and for some reason every team the Leafs needed to cool off or at least play like their normal selves turned on the jets and then some. It’s another long off-season ahead but if the second half of the season is any indication, the Leafs shouldn’t be in a position to be relying on anybody next season.
The Leafs are in New Jersey tonight to play out their second from final game of the 2010-11 season with nothing but some pride on the line. Ron Wilson will emphasize a desire to finish the season on a high note but it will be interesting to see what decision he makes between the pipes tonight. An away game with playoff implications out of the picture seems like a good time to get a look at the state of Jonas Gustavsson’s game, who hasn’t featured for the big club since January 19.
It was unfortunate we put ourselves in the predicament we did where we had to run the table. We played our hearts out, we did everything we could. We’ve fallen short right now but I’m proud of the way we battled for the last couple months, especially today too.
Be sure to check out Mislav’s Game in 10 from the 3-2 SO loss to the Capitals.
Mirtle’s story from last night.
Jonathan Willis at The Leafs Nation points out some flaws in the assumption that Dion Phaneuf was a better defenceman in Calgary based on his offensive numbers. In his 60 point 2007-08 season, Phaneuf played softer minutes on a blueline with Regehr and Sarich. If his recent play is any indication, he has combined good offensive output with a more responsible defensive game in tougher situations, precisely what you want in your number one defenceman.
PPP with a breakdown of the Leafs’ newest 30-goal scorer, and first homegrown one since Sergei Berezin.
Jonas Siegel with a story on the improved mental game of Nazem Kadri since his return to the Leafs.
Other hockey links:
Down Goes Brown’s latest.
Skinny Fish at PPP refutes the President’s Trophy curse with a little thing called statistical evidence.
You be the judge, but it looks like the elbow is out and Torres knowingly leans into a player in a vulnerable position. For some reason the league tends to make these decisions based on the level of physical harm inflicted rather than the intent, so I don’t think this goes further than the 5 minute and a game misconduct as Eberle emerged unharmed.
Last Night in Leafs Prospects:
The Erie Otters were looking for more from the OHL’s second highest scorer in the regular season, near-50-goal man Greg McKegg. The still-18-year-old recorded only two points in six games in Erie’s Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Windsor Spitfires. In game seven McKegg showed up in a big way, leading his team with two goals, an assist and a plus-four (was on for all four goals for) as the Otters fell just short to the Spitfires 5-4. That’s what you look for in a young player – gaudy numbers are great, producing in clutch situations, even better.
Kenny Ryan, who had a goal and four assists coming in, was held pointless and recorded a minus-three.
Leafs Video of the Day:
Last night’s highlights:
Should Wilson start Gustavsson in Jersey tonight? What of a potential call up of Joe Colborne – who would have come up instead of Kadri if he wasn’t injured when Armstrong went down – for a taste of NHL action with the Leafs and Marlies now out of playoff contention?