Mats Sundin Memory # 9 - Captain Clutch

S-U-N-D-I-N

For the next two days, we're running 13 of our top memories of Mats Sundin as a Maple Leaf. There are more to choose from but Sundin captaining Sweden to Gold in 2006 and his years as a Nordique won't make an appearance on the list. For help, I enlisted Mats Sundin's biggest fan Eyebleaf to help come up with and number the list. It's far from exhaustive and your mileage may vary on our choices but these were the 13 that came immediately into our minds so consider it a small token of our appreciation for one of the greatest Leafs of all-time.

This one is focused on one particular goal but it really could just be about how Sundin was the player that the Maple Leafs could count on when they needed him most. Sundin is tied for the most overtime goals (15) and I just found out (thanks Wikipedia) that Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, and Gordie Howe never scored one in overtime. I'd feel better if I read that in the Encyclopedia Britannica but it'll have to do.

Is it Ironic that the memory comes from a game which the Leafs ultimately lost? Or that Tomas Kaberle passed up an open shot before finally throwing it on net? Anyway, this one is a pretty vivid memory. I was living with my dearly departed uncle that Spring and Summer and as the team looked headed to a loss he went to bed in frustration. Of course, he did this a lot but he secretly went to watch the game in his bedroom because as much as the Leafs drove him insane he was a die hard fan. Meanwhile, I retreated to the television in the basement where I watched the last five minutes about five feet from the television in a nervous crouch praying for a miracle.

I wasn't able to scrounge up enough pennies to see game six (I had been to game two which the Leafs also lost in overtime 2-1) but my cousin had actually been lucky enough to go to the game. As the seconds ticked away, I tensed with every shot on goal and nervously glanced at the clock willing the team to tie the game. When the puck finally went in and Sundin had extended the Leafs' season I yelled so loudly I almost lost my voice and punched the ceiling as I exploded out of my crouch. My dad called his brother to see if he had seen the goal (of course he had) and he told him that if he hadn't he would have been able to guess what had happened based on the commotion I was creating. My cousin had to call me from the smokers area because the ACC was roaring. Even outside I could barely hear her over the din of the crowd. Sadly, they lost in overtime on a brutal giveaway and the dream of a trip to the Final was dead for another year but not before Mats provided one more memory. And of course, Joe Bowen nailed the call:

Down 1-0 against the Carolina Hurricanes in game six of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, trailing 3-2 in the series, their season on the line, Mats Sundin scored with 21.8 seconds left on the clock to tie the game, and send it to overtime. Joe Bowen, after the goal, without much of a voice left, yelled: "Don't tell me about heart, and dedication, and resilience; this is unbelievable!" Again: another moment I'll never forget. When the Toronto Maple Leafs needed a goal, it was of course Mats Sundin who scored it. Captain clutch.

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