There was a point in the third period last night where I said to the guy next to me (I was at a sports bar) “Isn’t this great?”
You wouldn’t have a pulse if you weren’t glued to this game. Every time the Kessel line was on the ice they looked dangerous. Mikhail Grabovski though scoreless yet again, was a dervish highlighted by a head-long rush to the net where he was spun around like wide receiver after a hit. Also of note the play of Jake Gardiner who chews up probably three times the ice of the average defenceman, making Randy Carlyle cringe sometimes but also creating an offensive attack the Leafs simply don’t have without him.
And although the Leafs took a dagger for the game and series with a 4-3 overtime loss, the game was wildly entertaining. The kind of game that give coaches potential heart attacks but for fans, the end-to-end rushes, a healthy dose of hits and numerous close chances for both sides made the game a thriller in my humble opinion.
Unfortunately it wasn’t an outstanding game for Dion Phaneuf who again becomes the whipping boy for pinching and trying to take off Nathan Horton’s head which led to an odd man rush that ended with David Krejci completing a hat trick. Game over.
It never ceases to amaze me the vitriol spewed by the fan base directed at Phaneuf. If he were at a Leafs celebrity carnival he’d be that guy who’d Leaf fans most like to dunk.
I’ll admit Phaneuf isn’t the easiest guy to like with his occasionally risky play, his uninspiring, clichéd-filled interviews and hey, let’s throw in his celebrity wife of his too while we’re at it. Phaneuf might not be the best choice as captain but his salary, his contract always get hauled out whenever he does something that seems to backfire like last night. They don’t get on Grabovski’s lack of productivity for his $5.2 million salary.
Fans should take a breather on the anti-Phaneuf diatribe. He probably erred in going for the hit on Horton instead of backing off. But you can argue that defenceman Ryan O’Byrne was too deep on Krejci and Reimer would probably admit that was a stoppable shot.
There’s also some speculation that Phaneuf is injured or sick. He does appear a step slow and atypically passed up several chances to blast shots at the net. We’ll find out if all is well with him or not if the series ends in the next few days.
But there’s at least one more game to play and the Leafs again find themselves in the pressure-packed situation of bouncing back from an emotional loss. Only this time there is no second chance as they face elimination Friday in Boston.