You wanna know how I know the Leafs’ recent success is different from other years? Because these Leafs, despite looking very solid throughout the past few games, seem absolutely determined to avoid moving up in the standings. Late blooming Leaf teams of the past few years all had a penchant for getting tantalizingly close to the playoffs before crushing the fans with another crucial loss. After wins over playoff teams like New Jersey, Ottawa and Montreal, the Buds had a golden opportunity to move within a game of the 14th place Florida Panthers tonight. Unfortunately, they came out flatter than Nicole Richie’s chest.
Despite out-shooting the Panthers 43-29, the Leafs weren’t able to generate that up-tempo game that has been so crucial to their recent success. Backup netminder Scott Clemmensen came within a few minutes of posting his first shutout of the year, although he wasn’t really forced to make any extraordinary saves. The Panthers played their usual tight defensive game, and did a great job of cutting down on the Leafs’ shooting lanes, blocking 25 shots.
At the other end, Giguere was less than spectacular, giving up 3 goals on 28 shots, although none of the Panthers’ goals were really his fault. Luke Schenn coughed up the puck to David Booth for the panthers’ first goal, Booth tipped in a point shot early in the 3rd, and Michael Frolik’s goal banked in off of Tomas Kaberle’s leg.
Overall, tonight looked alot more like the rest of the season did. After dominating play in the first period, outshooting Florida 19-8, and heading to the locker room down by a goal, the Leafs’ young roster failed to bounce back and never really challenged the Panthers’ lead for the rest of the game.
Toronto now sits 4 points back of the 14th place New York Islanders and 14 points out of the playoff picture.
1. Scott Clemmensen – 42 saves
2. David Booth – 2 goals
3. Bryan McCabe – 1 assist and a big FU to the ACC faithful who continues to boo him whenever possible