So, the Leafs refuse to say die despite all logic telling them to start working on their their tans. I got home late from work today and flicked on the game while I fixed myself something to eat. Shortly thereafter the Flyers made it 3-0 in a game the Leafs appeared to be dominating. The Leafs could have easily rolled over, folded the tents and kissed their unlikely playoff hopes goodbye—and yet, they didn’t. They battled back valiantly to tie it up and eventually win it in overtime.
Obviously, giving up the extra point to Philly pretty much kills whatever long shot hope the Leafs had (yes, I know, not technically), but kudos to Paul Maurice for, (a) going for the win in regulation by pulling Toskala in a tie game; and (b) getting his players to play such a committed game. I think Maurice has done a pretty sketchy coaching job this season – poor special teams, having the wrong players on the ice at the end of tight games – but he’s been doing something right for the past few weeks. There is certainly no quit in this team yet. For whatever reason, and going back to the Quinn days, this team has always played well when faced with adversity.
All that being said, I’m really hoping that Fletcher sticks to his guns about rebuilding this team properly (side note: raise your hand if you’ll be surprised if the GM search eventually gives Fletcher the job). When he took the job he said he wouldn’t be swayed by improved play at the end of the season and that the fact that a number of players started playing well once the team was all but eliminated from post-season contention was instructive. When McCabe started talking about their improved play being due to just getting healthy I started getting nervous that the Leafs higher-ups would agree with him. We’ll see.
Speaking of McCabe, the Leafs' power play has improved dramatically since his return from injury. Perhaps this will create a market for him in the off-season, particularly with less money owed to him in the latter years of his deal?
On a purely selfish note, the Leafs not making the playoffs again means I don’t get to enjoy one of the most appealing aspects of the spring: Maple Leafs playoff fever. When the weather starts to warm up and the Leafs are going on a playoff run this town is electric. Every restaurant sign seems to read “Go Leafs Go” every cab driver will talk your ear off about the team and there is a general buzz in the air… not to mention the ubiquitous car window flags (haven’t seen too many of those this season). I guess we were spoiled around the turn of the century when the Leafs regularly flirted with a Cup run. On the plus side, starting in April I can begin focusing on the FC and my golf game.
In other sporting news…. Big news last week in the tennis world that Roger Federer had mono during the Australian Open, which explains his sluggish performance there and during the opening two months of 2008. So, if we can give him a mulligan for 'only' reaching the semis in the year’s first Grand Slam, can we say that the rivalry is back on? What rivalry is that you ask? Well, with Tiger Woods of course. Both have no real peers among their contemporaries and are only competing against history, so let’s hype their Grand Slam battle…. Or maybe just enjoy their artistry, but doesn’t this race seem like something you could gamble on?