If you were to look at when backups/third string goalies play against the Leafs you might follow the lead of some reporters and most opposition fans and suggest that every instance has involved a team deciding that second best was good enough to face the Leafs. While it is certainly true that there have been many instances of that kind of thinking the majority of the switches have come because a starter was given a much needed break (Lundqvist), injuries (Vokoun), strong record versus Toronto (Price), or poor performance by the starters (Ramo). Anti-Leafs can debate it all they want but things are not all black and white.
What is not open to debate is how often the Leafs have made the supposed dross that they have faced look like world beaters. Saturday night was no different as the Leafs peppered Antero Niittymaki with 56 shots and managed only two goals. That both goals came in a third period which started with the Leafs down 2-0 was the moral victory. It was a moral one and not a real one because Ian White heard 'next goal wins' and figured it was shinny rules as he tackled RJ Umberger after he waltzed past him. Once again it was a penalty and should have been called but this came after the refs had seemingly decided to swallow their whistles and were content to see Mats and Antro get ridden like horses.
The real talking points for the night were two more dirty plays in a long string of suspendable incidents that have involved the Flyers this year. By involved I mean that they are a dirty hockey team whose coaches have either completely lost control of their players or have decided that they'd rather win at any cost. For any Flyers fans that might get all up in arms (as they are wont to do) yes, I saw the Kubina hit on Coburn on the highlights (I missed the first period trying not to die while skiing) and it should have been a penalty.
Anyway, back to the Flyers. I tuned into the game just in time to see Alex Steen take a suicide pass up the middle. While the pass was suicide what came next was attempted murder as Derian Hatcher, who raced out of position, flew towards Steen's head with a flying elbow that can have no intent attributed to it other than wanting to end the young Swede's career. Luckily, Steen is very adept at avoiding contact and saw the missile coming towards him. He managed to fall backwards and only received a glancing blow. Joffrey Lupul was not as lucky as he was chasing Steen and took the brunt of the impact as his head snapped back and struck the ice hard. He is out for at least a couple of weeks with a spine injury which is very scary. Pleasure Motors at Covered in Oil (a personal favourite) titled his post perfectly. No, he is not saying that he's glad that Lupul was hurt. Everyone obviously hopes that Lupul is fine because spinal injuries are scary but it's good to see the Flyers deliberate attempts to injure turned back on them.
The other incident involved Steve Downie, he of the 20 game suspension for his attempt to separate Dean McAmmond's head form his body, punching Jason Blake about 10 seconds after their hug was broken up by the linesmen and then skating to the box with a shit-eating grin that unfortunately Belak was not around to knock off of his face. Mirtle's post about the hit (with video) drew the typical knuckle dragging replies from Flyers fans but it was the team's GM, Paul Holmgren, that was critical of the sucker punch which makes me wonder if Holmgren is just posing in light of Hatcher being accused of biting Travis Zajac or if it's John Stevens that has sanctioned the no-limits violent approach of the team. I guess we'll just have to wait until Downie breaks Jason Spezza's ankle in the playoffs for some real action to be taken. Bobby Clarke must be so proud.
The third incident that I just saw briefly involved the Leafs' own Mr. Glass and his latest run-in with terrible luck. Against any other team you might think that it was an accident but against the Flyers I wouldn't put it past them to target Carlo's recently rebuilt knee and Coach Maurice seems to agree:
While Toronto coach Paul Maurice implied that there was something nefarious about his knee-on-knee collision with Philadelphia's Jim Dowd – "I don't know how that collision happens after the whistle,"
While it's disappointing to see Carlo injured once again it is great to see that he still has the determination to succeed that has seen him return from a litany of serious injuries:
I play hard and I just deal with the consequences. I'm not going to change anything about the way I play or my style of game. I'm just going to continue to play hard. The one thing I try to make people understand is that I don't go out there with the intent to get hurt. I go out there with the intent to play hard and to play hockey.
The Leafs now go on a West Coast road trip which unfortunately is not like a Western road trip where the points are plentiful. The Sharks' home record is terrible but the Leafs should be just the tonic. The Kings are atrocious but they'll probably give the Leafs fits and they might get to face their old pal JS Aubin. And it all kicks off against the Ducks who feature two all-world defencemen and are the defending Stanley Cup Champs. At least they'll get some sun.