TORONTO – Get ready to rock and roll!
A victory in Boston by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference opening-round series has put this city in a party mood it hasn't felt since April 21, 2004. That was last day this city saw NHL playoff hockey when the Maple Leafs defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime.
Little did anyone know at the time nearly a decade would pass before the Maple Leafs would make it back to the postseason.
"I know everyone in Toronto is excited, eager and anxious," said Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, who set up Phil Kessel for the game-winning goal in Game 2 which evened the series at 1-1. "The players are excited, too, and we're going to use the fans as the seventh man and, hopefully, we don't disappoint them"
All season, coach Randy Carlyle has talked about trying to not be affected by white noise – the distractions that come from playing in a city where media coverage in at the highest level and fans have been starved for a winner for so long. Carlyle, a former Maple Leafs defenseman, said he is happy to be bringing playoff hockey back to Toronto.
"We know the passion that is in this market and the pent-up frustration that has taken place the last while, but we weren't part of that," he said. "We're put in a position here to try to correct some of those things. It's just a step toward earning back respect for our community and our fans. That truly is one thing we have talked about and presented to our players. It is our responsibility to provide the highest quality effort that we can. I think this town is a hard-hat town in a lot of ways. It's an honest-day's-work-for-an-honest-day's-pay [town] and some of our players are paid quite well."
Joffrey Lupul of the Maple Leafs said the players watched video Sunday morning of the fans celebrating in Toronto at Maple Leafs Square. He knows how special this time of year is for the fans.
"It's pretty exciting for the players, too," Lupul said. "We have unbelievable fans here and I think it is great for them to finally be able to cheer on a playoff game. They stuck with us and they deserve this. I hope everybody in the city is having fun and that we can make them proud."