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Leafs vs. Senators Game Blog

Thursday, 03.04.2008 / 7:35 PM / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Leafs vs. Senators Game Blog
Pre-Game

We all have our purposes in life.

Eric Lindros’ job for the longest time was to give work to newspaper writers. Sam Mitchell nobly stepped in when Lindros retired.

The Ottawa Senators exist to make the Toronto Maple Leafs feel good about themselves.

This is not easy for a team that has missed the playoffs three straight years and truth be told, most Torontonians don’t consider Ottawa as much more than a place to send their taxes.

The feds wised up and scattered their strongarm offices all over the country. Who, after all can be mad at Sudbury, but the enmity toward the capital remains.

Ottawa, a perfectly livable city filled with lovely people and amenities views the Maple Leafs as the hockey version of the Ebola virus. No good can come from even the most casual contact. For four years, the Leafs ended Ottawa’s season with lesser team but more resolve. It’s as if the Leafs existed to confirm the Senators worst fears, that they aren’t tough enough, disciplined enough, good enough.

The Leafs in their decline have of late avoided giving the Senators to crow about. When they could no longer count on beating Ottawa in the playoffs, they simply stopped taking part.

Which brings us back to tonight. The Senators are in an unfathomable freefall. If they lose tonight, they could miss the playoffs. They started the year 15-2. Gravity does not do this. You need rocket boosters.

The Leafs, out of the playoffs, without Nik Antropov and Mats Sundin, suddenly have something more to play for.

It is the sheer joy that comes with putting the blocks to someone else.

This is the same instinct that is exhibited in lobsters. When one is about to break free of the bucket, the others pull him back in. In that way, it is perfectly natural.

First Period

Mark Bell scores on a nice feed from Darcy Tucker at 7:30 but a dreadful Darcy Tucker hold gives Ottawa a power play and Dany Heatley scores to break a streak of seven scoreless periods.

There is a smattering of Sens’ support at the ACC. It is a strange phenomenon, but Leaf fans are actually louder in the opposition building. There have been studies of why this happens. Humans generally regard opposite behaviour. When my kids visit other households, they become social and considerate and finish everything on their plate. At home, they act more like wolverines. This, of course, has not been included in any study since researchers frown on parents providing their kids with live mice to finish their homework. But I digress.

The Sens get a goal from Spezza after Staffan Kronwall inexplicably tries to break out of the zone as the last man back. Luckily, he only committed this gaffe against the Sens best line.

Mark Bell’s elbow if you are a Senator or shoulder if you are not annihilates Daniel Alfredsson (Watch). ACC fans cheer robustly on the original hit and ecstatically cheer the replay.

As far as bad guys go, Daniel Alfredsson is hopelessly miscast. He’s a nice guy, an honest player and aside from one impish impersonation of Mats Sundin tossing his stick into the crowd (Sundin had been suspended for the offence), has done nothing to warrant any enmity.

This is the way in rivalries and marriages of all kinds. It’s a sad occasion when you can’t dislike someone just because they’re standing there. Two skirmishes delay the final two seconds of the period. Ah, if only Wade Belak was here.

Second Period

Antoine Vermette would be called for traveling but his judicious decision to carry the puck in his outstretched glove led to a Senators breakout and a shorthanded goal by Cody Bass. That made the score 3-1.

Agent Cody Bass is only one of the amusing nicknames applicable to the Senators. Others include Martin Baby Face Gerber, Ray Emery and Ivory, Mike Fisher Price, Jason Spezza All My Money and Chris Neil Simon.

These nicknames are childish and will not be repeated. Oh, and Martin La What Was The Point of All This.

That’s it. I mean it.

Okay, Christoph Franz Schubert. Franz Schubert, like Christoph, was never much appreciated while he was alive.

The Leafs of course, include such standouts as Kris Andy of Newbury, Jason Blake This Job and Shove It and Dominic Mary Tyler Moore.

There. I have held so much inside this season.

Antoine Vermette stretches to rap home a rebound right past Bryan McCabe. The Senators, clearly, want this game more. The original penalty to Mark You Can Ring My Bell was one of the most atrocious penalties ever called in the history of our solar system which, you should know is about 4.54 billion years but that’s about how many chances the Leafs had to clear their zone and they did not.

Cory You Still The Man  scores in the final minute to make it 5-1

Third Period

Dean McCammond scores the Senators second shorthanded goal, a beauty, then Antoine Vermette scores on the same penalty kill. It’s a hat trick for Vermette. The Leafs have three goals against and no goals with the man advantage. Yes, in the off-season, the Leafs might very well consider fixing it.

The Senators host Boston tomorrow night. If they win the're in.

Dominic Moore scores but it matters not as Heatley scores again. The Sens have stopped raising their sticks.

It has been that kind of a year. The good news includes the arrival of Vesa Toskala, Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty as well as Mats Sundin’s 32 goals. Lower case bonuses have been the improved play of Pavel Kubina who seems every bit the player Leafs signed two years ago and the breakthrough 56-point season from Nik Antropov.

The rest has been a devastating disappointment. Tonight’s outcome seems perfectly appropriate. The Air Canada Centre  is clearing out halfway through the third. The loudspeakers blare a Springsteen tune perfectly apropos of the 8-2 final and the lost season: Radio Nowhere.

Post Game

The season finale at home was like so many other Leaf games. A palpable panic fell over the Maple Leafs when they fell behind at home.

The Leafs were actually in the middle in the league with 18 road wins. Only four teams performed more poorly at home, where the Leafs accrued an 18-16-6 slate.

“We had some games this year we would like to forget about at home, that’s for sure,” Darcy Tucker said after the game.

The concept of an 8-2 loss being the final memory of the season rankled. All the more reason, said Vesa Toskala, to purge the performance from the memory banks.

“I think I’ll be able to forget this pretty easily. It’s been a tough season. Our goal was to make the playoffs but we were out four or five games before.  If you’re not 100 per cent ready to play, that’s what happens.”

“It was real disappointing,” said Paul Maurice. “We got started the way we wanted to. Very disappointing.”


 

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