The Toronto Maple Leafs headed to Boston Sunday night feeling good, flying high, liking their chances in a Game 7 finale. The Boston Bruins put their tables in the upright position but never got off the ground.
As a fitting end to their imperfect evening – a 2-1 series-tying loss to Toronto – the Bruins were informed their airplane, much like their game at the Air Canada Centre, had malfunctioned and wasn’t going anywhere. That meant the players had to find a hotel and stay in Toronto overnight then fly home on the day of their most important game this season.
Now, Toronto to Boston is hardly a hardship flight, but it is an inconvenience and an indicator that everything that was once going so smoothly for Boston has hit a patch of turbulence.
The Leafs, for example, have found a way to slow the Bruins’ big line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton while taking the wheels off Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Emotionally, the Bruins have to be feeling frustrated at not putting Toronto away when they were up 3-1 in games. As for the Leafs, they’re finally getting the hang of this postseason thing.
Sunday was their first playoff triumph at home over Boston in 54 years. And should the Leafs win Game 7 tonight, it would be their greatest comeback since 1942 when Toronto overcame a 3-0 series deficit to defeat Detroit and win the Stanley Cup.
That Leafs team had Syl Apps, Wally Stanowski, Sweeney Schriner with Turk Broda in goal. The current Leafs team has Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and James Reimer in goal. A few days ago, that sounded more like a dilemma than a strength.
All method, no madness
The first Game 7 of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs was supposed to bring drama, tension, white-knuckle moments. We can thank the Detroit Red Wings for doing away with all of that.
The Wings methodically took apart the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, scoring a 3-2 win that was far more one-sided than it sounds. Detroit scored early in the first period, scored again, this time on a shorthanded breakaway, then went ahead 3-1 in the second period. Every time Anaheim got close, the Red Wings held them off. Corey Perry never scored a goal the entire series. Part of that had to do with Detroit’s checking and smart positional play; much of it had to do with Jimmy Howard’s goaltending.
Coming off a season that saw him lead Detroit to a playoff berth that was hardly assured, Howard continued his strong showing in the postseason. He’s given the Red Wings what their coach Mike Babcock believes they need. “Our team is not what it once was,” Babcock said before the playoffs began. “We could get by with very few stops (before). Now we need stops. Our goaltender has to be better for us to be successful.”
Howard was so successful he made a Game 7 seem like just another night with the Florida Panthers in town.
Conspiracy buff and stuff
There’s still no word on the “forensic investigation” launched by Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk, who hired trained experts to determine if man really walked on the moon or if it was staged on a Hollywood back lot. Wait. Wrong conspiracy.
What Melynk hired investigators to do was look at Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Matt Cooke and whether he deliberately meant to injure Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson. A Cooke skate blade cut Karlsson’s left Achilles tendon on Feb. 13 sidelining the 2012 Norris Trophy winner for eight weeks. Melynk was infuriated by the play and by Cooke, who has a history of doing bad things on the ice.
Naturally, given how fate has a wicked sense of humour, Ottawa and Pittsburgh now face each other in the second round of the playoffs, which would be the perfect time for Melnyk to release his findings and tell us, once and for all, if there was a shot fired from the grassy knoll.
But no. Nothing. Even Karlsson wants little to do with Cooke and talk of his intent.
“Whatever happened, happened. I’m back playing and happy,” Karlsson told reporters Sunday. “It’s not something I walk around and think of … and I think (Cooke) feels the same way.”
During the regular season, Cooke scored 21 points in 48 games and had 36 minutes in penalties. Through six playoff games, he has zero points and 14 penalty minutes. At that clip, the Senators should want Cooke getting all the ice time he can handle. Or mishandle.
Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik ended a 77-game playoff scoring drought when his Saturday night blast ousted the New York Islanders in overtime. The Penguins’ defenceman now leaves Nashville Predators’ counterpart Hal Gill with a shot at history.
Gill has played 110 postseason games without scoring. The record is held by former NHL defenceman Craig Muni, he of many teams, who played 113 games without scoring a goal. Muni won three Stanley Cups with an Edmonton Oilers’ team stocked with superstars – Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson – and he still couldn’t sneak in a goal?
That is impressive.