For the first time in nearly a decade, the Toronto Maple Leafs have qualified for a post-season berth. You have to forgive the title, but having never as a fan going through a drought of this magnitude and length, this feels fantastic. The city will be lively for the next week and I can not wait to see what the building is like for game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Sometimes words don’t express how great this is, so I will turn to YouTube for some memories of the great atmosphere of years past. Below is a highlight video of the last playoff game that the Maple Leafs were in back in 2004.
While this team has no Sundin, Roberts, or Tucker, it does have a lot of young hungry players that like to hit everything that moves, and regardless of how they got there, they deserve credit for the playoff games Toronto is about to take in.
On to the game.
There are some elements of this game that are inexplicable, but getting out-shot by double digits against the best statistical goaltender in the NHL is usually the way that losing teams are talked about. Those are not advanced statistics (those were really ugly tonight), but this team is as advertised.
James Reimer has not had two consecutive bad games in some time. His performance tonight was Belfour like, at least while he was with the Leafs. Hopefully the team remembers a bit more defensive hockey and Reimer can keep his hand hot.
James van Riemsdyk found the back of the net twice, Nazem Kadri ended his eight-game scoring slump, and Joffrey Lupul fittingly sealed the deal with a breakaway goal late to give the Leafs a 4-1 victory.
The matchup game starts now, and it should be obvious the two teams Toronto needs to avoid like the plague are Washington and Boston. It seems far-fetched that they would drop to eighth to have to play Pittsburgh, but sixth would be a death wish. The Capitals are playing better now than they did in their Presidents Trophy season, and the Bruins need no explanation as to why they have to be avoided. Here is hoping for a classic Montreal matchup.
Tonight’s Maddies Mark player of the game needs no introduction, Mr James Reimer. With 50 shots against and only one getting by, making it literally one of his best days ever. For more information on how you can help give kids their best day ever, visit www.maddiesmark.org