Indeed, most ardent and cynical followers of the Toronto Maple Leafs would admit, despite the disappointing shoot-out loss to Washington, they appreciated the team's third period heroics and knew, if we could only bottle and supply back to Brian Burke their approximate 18 minutes of determined and spirited play, that their playoff hopes would be a lot brighter. There is hope, I suppose.
Only available in limited supply, like a genie granting three wishes, this wonderous elixir would certainly be used against struggling teams, especially Ottawa and Buffalo. Since a very long time ago, I can't recall a struggling team that has come into Toronto and has been soundly thrashed and dealt an embarrassing loss. Nonetheless, the team today sits just a few points away from a playoff spot.
Speaking of wishes, here's how they roll out for me: Kris Versteeg scores a goal in each of the games he plays, Brian Burke delivers another of the best players in the game to the team and Ron Wilson is hired to coach the Islanders.
This past weekend, the Maple Leafs found themselves facing an under-manned Buffalo team. Yet backstopped by a rookie who had previously been yanked after the first period (against Boston), the team popped the tying goal with 13 seconds remaining and, go figure, also scored a shoot-out victory.
A small guy named Tyler Ennis eventually won it for the Sabres, saving Lindy Ruff's job in the process, beating our top-ranked goalie, JS Giguere.
On a positive note, John Mitchell showed some skill and finesse in scoring a goal during the shoot-out. I thought he played well during the game, though I was surprised he had earned a shot to win it, over and above Grabovski and Nicolai Kulemin. On another note, I'm losing track of the first line versus the second line players, as Coach Wilson is having a bit of fun juggling his line-up each night.
In this light, Clark MacArthur continues to exceed expectations, but sliding quickly are Tim Brent and Mike Brown. In the wake of Colby Armstrong going down to a finger injury, I thought Brown would step up to the plate, but he is not hitting with the same tenacity as a few weeks ago and certainly not scoring. The other player I believe who is going to start finding the net very soon is Fredrik Sjostrom.
Though, against Buffalo, solid play for nearly 58 minutes went for naught, proving skill goes out the window in the face of rotten luck. The Leafs these days are fighting well for puck possession along the boards and using obvious speed to their advantage, causing havoc along opposing blue lines, though cannot find the twine—as often as I'd like—when opportunity presents itself.
So now the boys are off to Florida, and following two successive midweek nights of play against the Lightning and Panthers, we fans will be either be revelling in those oft-dangled playoff hopes or again discussing the value of Mikhail Grabovski and Tomas Kaberle in Burke's highly anticipated trade to acquire a top-line forward.