Sunday, May 02, 2004

Maple Leaf Amnesia

Only one team brought it’s “A” game to the rink on Sunday, actually it appeared as if only one team showed up. Philadelphia powered by the tenacity of Keith Primeau took hold of this series and didn’t let go until the final whistle of game five. By the time he and his team mates were finished 7 goals had entered the Leaf net, only two going the other way. A complete annihilation of the Leafs in game five.

The Leafs seemingly forgot it was game day; nobody seemed to be inclined to lend a hand to the embattled Eddie Belfour, left alone time and time again to face the charge of Flyers over the blue line. No one threw a check; no one threw as much as a dirty look. This was a complete team collapse, a display of collective dis-interest that has the Flyers looking to be on the cusp of dismissing the Leafs on Tuesday night. Sunday the Leafs behaved as if they had decided to show some solidarity with workers in British Columbia, they laid down their tools and took the day off, all that was missing was picket sign on the gate of the Leaf bench.

How bad was this game? Quite brutal, each rush providing a scoring chance, Flyer after Flyer would take the play to the Leafs, out hitting them in the corners, punishing them at the blue line, controlling the play in every facet available. Goat horns will no doubt be assigned to Bryan McCabe who made yet more ghastly giveaways in this game, but truth be told he can pass the horns around the room, there are more than enough candidates to go around.

The Leafs didn’t get a shot on net for the first ten minutes of the first period, in the third they waited for the first seventeen minutes to pass by before getting a shot. This game featured a totally dominated team, embarrassed by their lack of effort or interest.

Belfour was pulled after goal number six, Trevor Kidd thrown to the wolves four minutes into the second period. Neither to blame for this loss, the problems came far further up the ice, the Leafs who so dominated the Flyers in game three have gotten off that game plan, no fore check, sloppy play in their own end and a sudden lack of scoring all components of the thumping they took Sunday afternoon.

For the Flyers the domination today came as a relief to players, coaches and fans alike. This is the kind of display they had been expecting through the playoffs, yet somehow they never could put all the pieces together. Sunday everything dropped into place. The Flyers were paced by Primeau who had addressed the players on Saturday in a closed door meeting, motivating his team mates by promising to elevate his game. And from the opening face off Primeau delivered, by the time he was finished his checking, his passing and his shooting he had three goals of his own as part of the 7 goal outburst. Leadership belong to the Flyer captain

The only downside to the game for the Flyers Sunday, was a suspected concussion suffered by Robert Esche in the first period, he never came out of the dressing room for the second period, his injury traced back to a Joe Nieuwendyk shot that hit him square on his mask. The Flyers plan on reviewing his situation on Monday; Sean Burke took over in the third and had little to do as his team controlled the play. Another questionable player for Tuesday is Vladimir Malakhov who also left the game with what was described as an “upper body injury”.

Game Six is back at the ACC on Tuesday, the Leafs will have to shake off this dismal performance and focus on extending this series to the full seven games, to do that they need a huge effort in their home rink. They need to get back to the fast paced, hard hitting style of play that knocked the Flyers on their heels in game three, otherwise the Leafs last stand is Tuesday. Another Leaf performance like this and Tampa can start booking hotel rooms in Philadelphia.

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