Toronto Maple Leafs
Less than 48 hours removed from a hard fought seven game series against the Senators, the Maple Leafs opened their second round against the well-rested Flyers in Philadelphia. We shouldn't have won this game. We didn't.
Clearly, this is going to be a tougher challenge than the one we just completed. Philadelphia is a strong, talented team that doesn't have Patrick Lalime between the pipes. Still, I felt we played well enough to steal this one. I suspect we'll win on Sunday to tie this series at one.
Philadelphia leads series 1-0
Following their fourth loss to the Maple Leafs in five years, fans of the Ottawa Senators must be as bummed as I am giddy. Earlier today I had a great time reading reaction from the Ottawa press.
There are two daily newspapers in Ottawa: The Ottawa Citizen and The Ottawa Sun. Unfortunately, the idiots at The Ottawa Citizen have made most of their articles accessible only to subscribers so I can't to link to everything printed in today's paper. Here are the two articles you can read.
The Ottawa Sun is sharing all Senator articles online and they're listed below.
- The choke's on us
- Senators lost series in Game 5
- La-lame can't save job
- Time to shake up Sens?
- Time for Muckler to do a spring cleaning
They all say the same three things. The Senators are under-achievers, the Senators can't beat the Leafs when it matters most and Lalime saved his worst for last and has to go.
It was 53 years ago today #5 Bill Barilko scored the goal. It was April 21st, 1951, game 5 of the Stanley Cup final between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. At the 2:53 mark of the first overtime period, Bill Barilko scored the last goal of his life winning the Stanley Cup for the Leafs. The 24 year old defenseman perished in a light plane crash that summer while on a fishing trip to Northern Ontario. Not until his body was recovered 11 years later in the bush near Cochrane, Ontario, did the Leafs win another championship. If you've never seen my tribute to Bill Barilko, today is the day to do it.
Throughout the first round of this year's playoffs, Leaf players have been wearing a blue cap with BB16 embroidered on the front. The "BB" is to invoke the spirit of Bill Barilko while 16 represents the number of games a team must win in order to capture Lord Stanley's Mug. A fellow Leaf fan's site adorns a graphic nicely counting down our wins to the magic number 16.
Only 12 to go...
I would like to bottle this euphoric feeling I have right now in order to preserve it for moments in the future I'm feeling less joyous. What a fantastic night. For the fourth time in five years, the Ottawa Senators are going home early from the Stanley Cup playoffs thanks to my beloved Maple Leafs. Ottawa is 0-4 in series against Toronto and 0-4 in Game 7s overall.
Lest we forget Daniel Alfredsson's promise to win this series tonight at the ACC. Alfredsson, like the rest of his teammates, were all but invisible tonight. They have proven time and time again that they aren't built for the playoffs and can't win when it matters most. At the trade deadline, there was much speculation the Senators would upgrade between the pipes as Patrick Lalime was showing himself to be rather inconsistent. Staying with Lalime would prove to be their downfall. Tonight, in the most important game of the season, Lalime was horrible while Maple Leaf goaltender Eddie Belfour shone bright. Belfour was brilliant throughout the series and is the biggest reason I'm sitting here right now with a huge smile on my face.
Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!
Toronto wins series 4-3
Since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939, the Maple Leafs have played in 20 Game Sevens. The Leafs have a record of 11-9, 5-8 on the road and 6-1 at home. That's right, we're 6-1 at home in Game Sevens. Tonight, at the ACC, the Leafs and Senators play a Game Seven.
Is there anything in sports as stressful as a Game Seven? Every mistake, every play, every moment is that much more maginified. One team will advance, one team will be finished for the season.
I'll never forget the Game Seven between the Leafs and Red Wings back in 1993. This game went to overtime. A Game Seven that goes to overtime is the ultimate heart stopper. The name Nikolai Borschevsky will forever arouse positive feelings in Leaf fans thanks to his overtime winner eleven years ago.
The spirit of Nikolai Borschevsky will be with us tonight. Go Leafs Go!
Damn. I wanted to win in six. Now we have to win in seven. At least it will be in front of the home crowd. Seriously though, I'm sure this is how it was scripted. Mats Sundin triumphantly returns to lead the blue and white into the next round of the playoffs.
Series tied 3-3
There was a frenetic pace to that first overtime period. Both sides had an opportunity to end it, both sides failed to do so. Period #5 awaits.
Call me crazy, but Tie Domi looks as likely to end this thing as anyone. I'm hoping I'm right.
Sudden. Death. Overtime.
Who will be the hero? Gary Roberts? Joe Nieuwendyk? Alexander Mogilny?
Anyone but Daniel Alfredsson, please Lord. Anyone but him...
It's clinching night. If my beloved Maple Leafs defeat the Sens tonight at the Corel Centre, we're on to the second round. We're about 90 minutes from game time and I feel like I'm playing tonight. I'm anxious, hopeful and more than a little nervous. I really want to wrap this thing up in six to give our guys a little breather before round #2.
History is on our side. Here are the results from the previous 4 elimination games between the two clubs:
2000: East CQF, Game #6, Toronto 4, Ottawa 2, Leafs win series in 6 games
2001: East CQF, Game #4, Toronto 3, Ottawa 1, Leafs win series in 4 games
2002: East CSF, Game #6, Toronto 4, Ottawa 3, Leafs force Game #7
2002: East CSF, Game #7, Toronto 3, Ottawa 0, Leafs win series in 7 games
While we're talking Leafs here, I received an email from a gentleman named Drew who lives in British Columbia. His team is not the Canucks but the Maple Leafs. In his email to me, he shared his letter to God he wrote following our game four loss. I've pasted it below.
Hope you are well. I have a selfish request to ask of you. I was wondering if I could better learn from you how to conduct ones daily struggles if perhaps you could stop teaching me life's lessons by gouging the eyes out of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey players. It would also be nice in my humble opinion, if you could stop breaking the legs on the Leafs players. I must admit, I personally think it is revolting and I can't possibly see how such acts must occur. If there is something you are trying to tell us; please save us from ourselves tell us (especially me) in an easier way so we'll all understand what you expect from us.
One of your finest creations the immortal leafs is now locked in mortal combat with a boorish team with gaudy jerseys. As you well know it's been a VERY long time since you have blessed our team with the cup. I'm sure God you found it very gratifying to keep the Leafs and the Habs away from each other again in this playoff series. I was so hoping to see the Montreal - Toronto match but you said no. So be it. Would it be selfish to allow our team to defeat the Senators in this years playoffs? After all we have trounced them usually very well in the regular season; it's expected. Please God make 1/3 of the country happy. I thank you for your attention.
Drew's letter to God reminded me of a letter I wrote to the Big Guy Upstairs in March 2003. You can read my letter here.
Go Leafs Go!
All three Maple Leaf victories in this series have been 2-0 Eddie Belfour shut outs despite the fact the Senators have actually out shot us 155-100 in the series.
Daniel Alfredsson has guaranteed his team will force and win a game seven in this series. Stop writing cheques your butt can't cash Alfie! I'm sticking with my prediction of Leafs in six.
Toronto leads series 3-2
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