by John McCauley
February 3, 2004
(TORONTO) -- The fears of overlooking a weaker squad --like the Chicago Blackhawks-- didn't keep the Leafs afraid of losing Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.
Three former Leafs, Nathan Dempsey, Steve Sullivan and Bryan Berard helped the Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory. Fortunately for Toronto, the Senators also lost and they didn't lose any ground in the Northeast Division standings. The Leafs are still three points up on Ottawa, but only two up on the surging Boston Bruins.
There was a lot of talk about the Leafs coming out flat after an emotional 5-1 victory over the Senators on Saturday. It was thought players would be looking over Chicago and directly at Thursday night's tilt in Ottawa.
Guess what? That's exactly what happened. The team knew the Blackhawks shouldn't be overlooked, but sluggish first and second periods were all the Blackhawks needed to take advantage.
| Toronto was crashing the net, but couldn't bulge the twine. |
(Graig Abel Photography)
Mikael Renberg and Darcy Tucker returned to the lineup after suffering through a hamstring and eye injury respectively. Renberg, back on the top line with Mats Sundin and Gary Roberts, scored the lone Leafs' goal. Tucker was skating with Robert Reichel and Tie Domi, but didn't look completely comfortable.
Trevor Kidd, who wasn't busy, but didn't receive much help either, stopped just 11 of 15 shots. Silly defensive errors made three of the four goals unstoppable for the backup.
The loss surely ruined what started out to be a great day for head coach Pat Quinn. Numerous reports have placed the 61-year-old behind the bench of Team Canada this summer at the World Cup. Though it is certain Quinn will be leading Team Canada, he was coy about it when asked.
"I have nothing that I'm at liberty to discuss," said Quinn, who led Canada to its first gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
Quinn has said all along that he would be honoured to take the reigns again. It seems the veteran coach and former player isn't fond of slowing things down.
"My association with Team Canada stretches back to 1986 when I went to Moscow to coach the world championship team and we finished with a bronze there. I've always been interested," Quinn said.
"I know this tournament is not as pure as the Olympics, but it's still country against country again and to have an opportunity to do something like that would be great regardless of the time in your life."
The benchboss will have big challenge for sure, but figuring out how his Leafs will avoid a repeat performance on Thursday is sure to dominate his thoughts before the official announcement is made on Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota as the All-Star festivities get underway.
Not only was Bryan McCabe not named to this weekend's NHL All-Star Game, despite his 11 goal and 31 points, but he wasn't even given the nod to replace Devils' captain Scott Stevens, who is out with a concussion.
Stevens' teammate Brian Rafalski was named Tuesday afternoon. He's appeared in each of the Devils' 51 games this season, ranks third on the club in ice time per game (23:28) and is fourth in scoring with 27 points (four goals, 23 assists).