Fore More Years
On the same night the Caps and Sabres were fighting over a position that the Leafs held onto firmly only seven weeks ago, the Leafs were engaged in a less momentous battle for 12th place. Or should I say battle for 13th place? While the bubble teams fight it out for 8th, the Leafs are in a race to dead last where the consolation prize for a disappointing season resides in a high draft pick.
The Leafs recent tank has enough momentum to suggest Burke might actually be a decent strategist. Fans who see merit in the Leafs losing as many games as possible before the end of the season got their way once again on Tuesday night as the team was shellacked 3-0 by the Carolina Hurricanes. Rooting for the tank is a defense mechanism as much as anything else, but at this point what else do we have?
More good news for Tank Nation came when it was announced that James Reimer would be out of the lineup with an “upper-body injury” so it would be Jonas Gustavsson’s game. Gustavsson stepped up to the challenge as we’re used to, letting in three goals on 12 shots and getting pulled after being scored on 37 seconds into the second period.
If you’re searching desperately for positives, there was one in Jussi Rynnas, who took over the remainder of the 2nd and 3rd period and shutout the Hurricanes on ten shots. Rynnas is the Leafs 4th or 5th string goalie depending on how much you think of the Marlies’/Royals’ Mark Owuya, and he was competent tonight. It’s damning with faint praise, for sure, in a game with so little on the line (let’s be honest, not even pride’s left), but competence was something welcomed to the Leafs net.
Outside the Leafs’ net, the game was like watching two guys fish. The Leafs outshot the Canes 30 to 22, with Cam Ward proving once again he has the Leafs’ number. The Leafs also outhit and won more draws than the Canes, but just couldn’t get anything going offensively. Finally, in a game that was as hard to watch as any lately, the Leafs were mathematically eliminated from the post-season and at home just to salt the wound.
The curse of the Mats Sundin lives! The Leafs still haven’t won at home since February 6th, 50 days ago.While the Leafs search for something to play for, fans search for a reason to keep watching. The only reason left is to cheer for Tank Nation and/or to feed your masochistic tendencies. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, there’s good news – only five games left.