I'm not sure why, but the Lightning contest didn’t ‘feel’ right for me, and I wonder if some of the players were not quite at their best, either, after clinching that playoff berth and spending a few days in sunny Florida. Something felt a tad off. Yes, they missed some chances that would have changed the outcome, but you could say that for most any game, eh? I didn’t expect them to “win out”, but if nothing else, Carlyle has plenty of ammunition when he hits the chalk board before the next couple of games.
All that said, I was happy to see guys like Colborne, Frattin and Kostka get some much-needed ice time. We will need everyone - and I mean everyone - ready to roll when the first playoff round begins.
On that “playoff” note, if I had my druthers, I’d probably like to see us play the Habs first. I would have felt that way even before the Montrealers began to struggle a bit in recent games. I’d just like to see a Montreal-Toronto series, which I sense would catalyze the Leaf fans base. (I was at the Forum for the last playoff series between these two games back in the spring of 1979.) And while the Habs—like our Leafs—have some fine young talent and solid veterans like Markov (and yes, Price in goal) they aren’t exactly the ’77 Habs—and nowhere near as physically difficult to play against as those great old Hab teams were, forget not being as talented.
And what would a playoff series victory do for Leafworld? Imagine….
I’m not sure I want to see the Capitals right now. As much as I was among those ready to dismiss them six weeks or so ago, they have become one of the tougher teams to play right now. If they can maintain their edge (that won't be easy), they will obviously be a handful for anyone.
As for the Bruins, I’ve said it here most of the season. They are not, in my view, what they were two years ago. Back then, they were so well-balanced, so tough on the puck, and had consistently superb goaltending and an undisputed number one goalie in Tim Thomas. I’m not sure they are the same team and it’s not just the injuries they have suffered. They experienced something of a Cup hangover a year ago, and I sense they may not be able to suddenly play the style and system that Claude Julien wants at this late date. They have struggled for big parts of the season and have rarely seemed to be on the same page.
I guess we’ll see.
In any event, we won’t know who the Leafs will play until the weekend. In the meantime, there are a couple of recent “Leaf Matters” podcasts that may be of interest to you. In Episode 56 co-host Matteo Codispoti from We Want a Cup and I chat with Globe & Mail writer James Mirtle, while ESPN’s Craig Custance dropped by for Episode 57. Mirtle is among those who employs 'advanced stats' as part of his analysis, while Custance provides an excellent—and I would say detached and objective, therefore important—assessment of the blue and white. He knows the entire Eastern Conference very well.
You can catch all the “Leaf Matters” shows, on iTunes and the PodAlmighty Network. We’ve been able to attract some top-notch guests—former Maple Leaf greats, mainstream media folks who know the Leafs inside out and some tremendous writers from the blogging community as well. For those interested, here is a guest list from the show:
· Allan Bester
· Laurie Boschman
· Bob Nevin
· Mark Osborne
· Mirko Frycer
· Jim Dorey
· Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun
· Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun
· Kevin McGran, Toronto Star
· Damien Cox, Toronto Star
· Adam Proteau, The Hockey News
· Sean McIndoe (“Down Goes Brown”) National Post
· Darren Yourk, Globe & Mail
· Paul Hendrick, Leafs TV
· Joe Bowen, Leafs play-by-play
· Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star
· Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun
· Michael Traikos, National Post
· Mike Strobel, Toronto Sun
· Paul Cuthbert, “Hockey this Week” (New York)
· Norman James CTV London
· James Mirtle, Globe & Mail
· Craig Custance, ESPN
· Rob Del Mundo, TML fans
· Jon Steitzer, Maple Leaf Hot Stove/Yakov Mironov
· Anthony Petrielli, Maple Leaf Hot Stove
· Marco Perruzza, Hope in the Big Smoke
· Curt Snodden, Blue Chips Prospects
· Miranda Furtado, “Babes Dig Balls”
· Alec Brownscombe, Maple Leaf Hot Stove
· Brian Huddle
Other special guests
· Pat Quinn, former Leaf player and coach
· Elizabeth Brinton, grand-daughter of Maple Leaf founder Conn Smythe
· Matt Nichol, founder, Biosteel