Sometimes You Beat The Odds
Friday, 01.04.2011 / 12:17 AM / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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When the Maple Leafs season ends, whenever it ends, it will have died too soon.
And how long has it been since those blessed words fell from a sober pair of lips.
The Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 Thursday in a shootout and as he was in Tuesday’s win against Buffalo, the most prominent Maple Leaf was Nazem Kadri, just 20.
The kid from London scored the only goal in the shootout and that mesmerizing sleight of hand will surely be reviewed for a while.
But a couple of moments before, Kadri burst into the Bruins’ zone on a two on two and found himself cheek to jowl against Boston behemoth Zdeno Chara. It was kind of like James Dean and his Porsche against the winding California highway.
Kadri gave up nearly a foot in the exchange and Chara’s habit of ladling out concussions the way parents give out chocolate at Halloween is well-documented.
Naturally, Kadri headed right for him, drove the net with impunity and managed a shot stopped by Boston goalie Tim Thomas.
That was your moment, as if you needed more like Jay Rosehill fighting Milan Lucic, Mike Komisarek roughing up anyone in his precinct and Tim Brent blocking two Chara bullets as the Leafs spent the last minute of overtime down four men to three. I mean, other than that, Kadri’s was the moment.
So many moments in a run of them presented in rapid order since James Reimer stepped into the Leafs net for good, January 1st, New Year’s Day.
The Leafs now have 82 points, five behind the Rangers and Buffalo, twin holders of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs have four games left to play. That’s not much.
Defeat was not an option, that’s the thing about it.
Fighting, just for the hell of it, losses its luster when others control what happens to you. There is very little to recommend in a campaign where you are allotted very little voice and even less chance.
The Leafs real enemy is time. Given another month or 10 more games, the Leafs might well draw even closer. Earlier mistakes committed by players who have long left aren’t the easiest to digest. Sleepwalkers who kill people complain about that all the time.
“It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do,” Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Suddenly, the sick are strong. Joffrey Lupul, who lost nearly a year to ill health, was a force against the Bruins. He now has four goals in his last five games and he plays a rugged, two-way game. The number one line seems two-thirds complete with Lupul and Phil Kessel waiting for that elusive big-time centreman.
The meek are mighty, none more so than the gentle, Bible-reading Reimer who stopped 35 of 38 shots and has now gone 6-1 over the last seven games.
The lost Kadri, paroled from the Marlies, has been found.
The scorned, Leafs coach Ron Wilson whose record left him a frequent target for critics, are now celebrated.
The Leafs went into the third period down 3-2. Brad Marchand on brilliant shorthanded marker, David Krejci on a tip-in and Andrew Ferrence on a shot that deflected off Luke Schenn were the Bruins’ marksmen.
Fair enough. Schenn notched his fifth after bouncing a shot of former Leaf Tomas Kaberle.
That left the Lupul goals. The former Anaheim Duck has eight goals in 24 Leaf games.
The Maple Leafs play in Ottawa Saturday, Washington at home on Tuesday, in Jersey on Wednesday and close the regular season against Montreal on Saturday.
Atticus Finch was right, in all things. You usually don’t beat overwhelming odds. But sometimes, sometimes you do.