Heard On Episode 4.8 of A Foot In The Crease
Is it just me or is everybody starting to get a feeling that something special is building in the Maple Leafs locker room? On Saturday night, we saw 50 minutes of gritty hockey as the Leafs worked hard to hang around in a game against the NHL’s best squad. Sure, scoring chances were there, but no bounces were going the Maple Leafs way and Leaf killer Stephan Valiquette appeared to be on his way to yet another victory over the Buds.
But then, late in the game, the bounces did start to go the Maple Leafs way as they poured on a knockout flurry of offense that left the Rangers not quite sure what had hit them. Five goals in a span of 5:21 seconds left the Air Canada Centre crowd in a standing frenzy as the final seconds ticked down, a state of euphoria not seen at ACC since the Maple Leafs won their last playoff round against the Ottawa Senators in 2004.
Following the game, the players credited the crowd and Ron Wilson credited the work ethic he has managed to instill in the Maple Leafs in a very short period of time. It’s amazing how positive an affect hard work, youthful exuberance, and determination can have on a team.
Those were the qualities missing on the Maple Leafs since the end of the lockout and now in the fourth season of the “new NHL.” It has become clear those are three qualities any team needs to possess in order to be successful.
A win like Saturday’s over the Rangers will only serve to galvanize the team even further as it starts to alter the prevailing mindset of accepting mediocrity that has existed over the past three years, and shows this group that they are indeed capable of winning games. This is not the first time this season the Maple Leafs have impressed so I’m starting to think this was not an accident.
The last three seasons, the Maple Leafs had a collection of talent. Now finally this season, the Maple Leafs have a team. But hey, all that was just rigmarole.