Friday, April 14, 2006

Hope Springs eternal in Leaf land

The odds are still against them, but the guys in Blue and White still want to put up a fight. Having picked a most unusual time to go on a winning spree, the Leafs have given their fans a small window of hope heading into the final weekend of the season.

With three games left before golf season starts for a number of NHL teams, the Leafs are trying to wring every last point out of the schedule in a bid to squeeze into that eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern division. They helped their cause once again on Thursday night, with an overtime victory of the struggling New York Islanders.

With Tampa currently holding down the final playoff spot, the Leafs need help in the way of an end of season losing skid by the Bolts, they also need for the Thrashers to crash to the ice and not gain any momentum going into the final weekend of the regular season.

Feeding off the energy of their captain, the Leafs have played some rather inspired hockey of late, clawing their way back into a race that for all intents and purposes had been declared over a couple of weeks ago. While it seems to anyone who doesn’t bleed Toronto blue that they’ve left things a little late, the true believers continue to hold faith that somehow Pat Quinn is going to get them to the promised land.

Toronto faces three opponents in three nights to wrap up the season, with games in Buffalo, home against Ottawa on Saturday night and a Sunday finale against the Penguins. A loss in any three would most likely bring to and end fanciful dreams of a playoff run for the Leafs, but with a renewed purpose of late it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they will win all three and then hope for a bit of help in the games Tampa play.

Should they come up short after such a wild spurt, it could prove to be more frustrating than if they just had faded away after the Olympic break. The Leafs gave away too many games early on in the season that would have made the difference in this last week of the schedule.

They chose to take the hard way to post season play; these five days, will tell the difference between building momentum in a playoff run, or just rebuilding a team for play in September.

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