I can't remember the last time Maple Leafs' play-by-play man Joe Bowen was forced to push his pipes to the limit, but there he was last night, excitedly croaking his way through a furious last-minute penalty kill as the Leafs held on to beat the Sabres and keep their faint playoff hopes alive. Watching from home, the Air Canada Centre came off like a hockey hotbed, thick with the electric atmosphere meaningful hockey games in March produce.
Being heartened by a close postseason miss is the kind of thing that makes Leaf fans easy targets of ridicule, but there is a lot to like about a young, scrappy group that refuses to roll over. Last night's sign of growth came in the second stanza, when a two-goal lead evaporated in 30 seconds. Head coach Ron Wilson called a timeout and the group found its legs again, spurred by Mikhail Grabovski's go-ahead marker.
The much-maligned (for good reason) penalty kill even came through last night, thanks to solid efforts by Mike Brown and Tim Brent.
Mirtle will be at today's practice as the Leafs get ready for Thursday's tilt with the Boston Bruins, filing something to this space later in the day.
Until then, the links:
Globe hockey columnist David Shoalts sees reason for hope in Leafland.
Mirtle files this report on the return of Dion Phaneuf's swagger.
AM640's Jonas Siegel blogs on last night's game. Take a gander at the Leafs roster from the first game against the Sabres this season.
Star columnist Damien Cox on the development of Nazem Kadri.
Michael Traikos of the National Post gives his take on the win over the Sabres.
Michael Langlois at Vintage Leaf Memories shares his thoughts on last night's win.
Sabres blog Die By The Blade notes that the Leafs used to be an easy win for Buffalo.
Defenceman Matt Lashoff's one-man acoustical jam.