Saturday, March 24, 2007

Third period collapse could be swan song for Leafs

For all intents and purposes, Friday night the Toronto Maple Leafs should have been looking at making up some ground in the race for the final Eastern Division playoff spot.

Instead, after what can only be described as a spectacular collapse, the Leafs find themselves falling further out of the race. That could be their fate, after a 4-1 Toronto lead early in the third period became at 5-4 loss by the end of the final twenty minutes of play.

In an amazing display of offence, the Buffalo Sabres suddenly turned on the scoring machine that many had become used to this year and set the Leafs back on their heels.

The Sabres came after the Leafs in wave after wave of scoring attacks, the Leafs suddenly too slow to catch the fast breaks. You could sense a wave of panic descending on the Leaf end of the rink as the Sabres just blew past forwards and defencemen on the way to a suddenly helpless Andrew Raycroft who could only do so much before surrendering the flurry of goals that may very well have turned the seasons from hockey to golf for Toronto.

It’s what they term a heartbreaking loss, one that got away from them and won’t be recovered. The two teams play the second half of their home and home series on Saturday night in Toronto, it will be interesting to see if the Leafs have sufficiently recovered from the shell shock of Friday night to launch another attempt on the final playoff spot.

In any playoff drive there is that pivotal game that seems to decide a teams’ fate, Toronto which seemed to have a sure two points ready for the taking left Buffalo with none. More importantly they may have left their chance for a playoff spot there on the HSBC ice, crushed into the boards and trampled over at centre ice from wave after wave of Sabres.

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