I'm running out of cliches when it comes to the Maple Leafs' playoff push. After another Tuesday night come-from-behind special, the Leafs live to see another day (how do you like that one?).
If you missed the game, you missed one hell of a goal by the New York Islanders. A real doozy. I've been watching hockey a long, long time and have never seen a goal like the one Rob Davison scored last night. It was probably the ugliest goal I have ever seen in my life. If you missed it, here it is in all its glory.
Ugly eh? I told you so. A hop, skip, jump and a right turn - in mid air, mind you - and into the net.
The goal, and how he reacted to it, said a lot about Vesa Toskala. A lesser goalie (ie: Andrew Raycroft) wouldn't have been able to rebound and finish the rest of the contest off strong. Toskala, however, is the real deal. He shook it off, and took the goal for what it was - a complete and utter fluke - and kept the Leafs in the game until they woke up in the third period. He made some big saves, especially a beauty late in the third on Mike Comrie. I have crazy man love for Toskala. He's a true rudey, and has been a bright, shining light in another dark season for Toronto.
Going into the third period down 1-0, I figured this was how the Leafs season would come to an end. At the hands of the Islanders and Wade Dubielewicz again, just like last season (a part of me died last April when Dubie and the Isles beat the Devils on the final day of the regular season - in a bloody shootout to boot - to deny the Leafs a playoff berth).
To add insult to injury, the winning goal was going to be Davison's bouncer, or so I thought. I think it would have been kind of fitting, though, to go down like that, you know? To suffer another heartbreaking defeat in Long Island thanks to a goal that would most certainly serve as a microcosm for a season gone so horribly wrong.
But like Vanessa Williams, the Leafs saved their best for last. Huge shoutouts to my boy Kyle Wellwood who had a monster third period, scoring the tying goal on a beauty deflection while driving hard to the net, and assisting on Pavel Kubina's game-winning power play tally.
Wellwood has taken a lot of heat this year, especially in the blogosphere. I know the gentlemen at He Score, He Shoot! really hate the guy, but I still have faith in the little magician and believe he is an integral piece of the Leafs puzzle going forward.
Welly's been bad this year. Ok, he's been really bad. Alright, he's been downright awful. His numbers - 7 goals, 11 assists (that's 18 points, you math whiz) in 55 games - reflect just that. It's been a trying season for him and he's found himself in Paul Maurice's doghouse more often than not. He's been benched on numerous nights (on Saturday against Buffalo he played less than 10 minutes and didn't see the ice in the third) and has even watched a few contests from the press box. A restricted free agent at the end of the season, I believe Wellwood will be brought back next year. He's too young and has too much talent to be given up on. The Leafs cannot let an asset like Wellwood walk out of their life, or mine. No way.
Much has been made of Welly's work ethic, or lack there of, but he's coming off two abdominal surgeries and has only recently been looking like his old self out there. He looked great last night, although the Islanders weren't exactly a most-formidable opponent (read: they really suck). Personally, I think Welly's played half-decent hockey the last two weeks. He deserves another shot and with a new head coach likely behind the bench next year, it's crucial that Wellwood at least gets an opportunity to be a top-six forward here in Toronto. God knows he has the talent. Remember, we must be patient with the young ones. It's a process.
I've also got to show some more love to Pavel Kubina, who potted his fourth goal, and third game-winner, in the past four games. One thing I love about Kubby is his penchant to shoot the puck, especially on the power play. He's got a bullet from the point and when Kaberle links him with a soft pass, he puts his head down and lets it go. Kubina's making a strong case that the Leafs shouldn't get rid of him this off-season, and that's fine by me. Mulligans all around, please!
Another game in the books, and another injury as well. Yep, it is who you think it is: Carlo Colaiacovo. This time it's a hamstring injury and by the looks of the injury and the amount of pain Carlo was in, he's going to be out for the rest of the season. Poor Carlo. It's hard not to feel for him. What he's going through just isn't fair, for any hockey player. Keep your head up Carlo, your spot on the blue line will be waiting for you when you return. I'm not sure who will get the call from the farm in Carlo's place. Possibly Staffan Kronwall? Or Jay Harrison?
Without Sundin and Antropov in the lineup the Leafs were able to grind out a win last night. It sure as hell wasn't pretty but the Leafs were never big on style to begin with. Unfortunately, the Flyers beat the pathetic Atlanta Thrashers and remain in 8th place, six points ahead of Toronto. With eight games to go and no option but to win all of them, the Leafs are in need of some serious divine intervention.
Next up are those dirty little Buffalo Sabres, again, on Friday night at HSBC Arena. An effort like last night's just won't cut it against Buffalo, who trail the Flyers by only three points and who will certainly come out hungry and flying against the Leafs. The Buds will be looking to keep their season alive and one thing's for certain, the atmosphere in Buffalo will be electric.
Until Friday my friends.