After some late-game puck luck helped them end a five-game losing streak Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Maple Leafs prepared for their tilt Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes knowing what the game has taught them over the years: there are some bounces that don’t go your way over the course of a season, but the hockey gods usually throw every team a karmic reward of sorts somewhere along the line.
“Bounces are bounces,” said Buds goalie James Reimer, whose team has seen the puck bounce in an unfortunate way against them a few times this season, including this past Saturday, when a goal by Brad Marchand with 47 seconds left in the third period gave the Bruins a 3-2 win. “Sometimes they happen with 40 seconds left, sometimes they happen with seven seconds left, and sometimes they’re 13 seconds into the game. Sometimes you think it happens against you more than it does for you, but definitely, it does swing both ways. Obviously, we’ve had a couple last-second losses, and it was good to have one go for us.
“It’s sport, and crazy things can happen. You try and play as consistently as you can, and eventually, you’ll get the bounces.”
Toronto’s 3-2 victory over the Flyers – which came after defenceman Matt Hunwick’s goal with 7.5 seconds remaining in regulation time – put the Leafs back in the win column for the first time since a 4-0 win over Anaheim Jan. 6. And although players were pleased to get the ‘W’, they remain concerned over the team’s slow starts to games. The Buds surrendered the first goal Tuesday the 30th time in 44 games this season they’ve surrendered the first lead of a game. That’s something that needs to improve if they’re to get back into the playoff race.
“It’s huge to get that first goal,” said Reimer, who helped keep Toronto in the game Tuesday by stopping 12 of 13 Flyers shots in the opening frame. “That’s obviously our goal every game is to go out there and get a good start.”
For the third consecutive game, the Leafs were involved in a coach’s challenge that overturned a goal due to a player being offside. In two of those instances – against Boston Saturday and against Chicago Friday – the challenge worked in Toronto’s favour, but against the Flyers, Peter Holland’s goal was not counted. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said Thursday he’s working within the guidelines of the coach’s challenge rule (which is in its first year of operation), but on goals called back because of offside, he wonders what effect it’s having on on-ice officials.
“This would be my question today: in the last three games, the other team had two goals called back for offsides, and we had one called back for offside; if all three goals had counted, would it have made any difference in the game?” Babcock said. “I mean, it might have in the score, but, I don’t know if we’ve made it better or worse, or different, I don’t know. The other thing is, does the league tell the linesmen, ‘Do your very best, but don’t be worried if you miss one, so let’s not be calling ones that aren’t offside, offside.’ So what scares me now is anything within a mile is going to be offside. And I’m not trying to be disrespectful to those guys. Those guys are proud of their job and they’re trying to do it right.”
Leafs players and management also were reacting to news Thursday that three Toronto icons – Dave Keon, Tim Horton and Turk Broda – will be the latest men to be honoured with a statue on Legends Row outside Air Canada Centre.
“I think it’s important that you honour the people that have been in your franchise,” Babcock said. “One of the special, special things about Original Six franchises is you have a lot of history, and there was a lot of success years ago with the Leafs. Those guys should be rewarded for what they did…I think it’s important, and I just know how special it’s been to go when they honour the guys, to hear them talk, to hear their families speak, they’re obviously appreciative, and we’re appreciative of what they’ve done.”
For Reimer, honouring Broda – a fellow Manitoba native and legendary goaltender – as well as former team captain Keon and cornerstone blueliner Horton is a nice way to acknowledge the team’s impressive past.
“I’ve heard some stories about him,” Reimer said of Broda, who still holds many Leafs goalie records. “He’s a legend in the league, let alone this franchise. Goalies were tough, and they’re still in the goalies union. Doesn’t matter if they’ve played in the last five years or not. He was a great goalie, and it’s good to see him honoured.”