Sunday, April 08, 2007

Was it Professor Lamoriello, in the dressing room, with a line up card?

If you’re looking for a suspect in the game of Clue that became the end of the Leafs season on Sunday, perhaps look no further than that listed above!

My oh my, you could hear the wails of despair as far as Hamilton on Sunday night, as the Mighty Maple Leafs were denied a trip to Lord Stanley’s post season dance this year.

After a remarkable tension filled third period of hockey between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders, the Leafs found themselves on the outside, suddenly free to spend more time with the kids, the clubs and their outside business interests.

In the end, the Islanders would rely on a little known goaltender from Invermere, British Columbia to put them into the play offs. Wade Dubielewicz made two key Overtime shoot out saves, securing a place for the Islanders in this years playoff season and sending the Leafs to join the Habs on the sidelines, to serve as testimonies to chances missed.

But, before we rehash an amazing last ten minutes of hockey we rewind to a pre game decision by head coach, GM, and Presidente for Life Lou Lamoriello. It was Lamoriello who chose to sit out perennial all star goaltender Martin Brodeur in favour of seldom used back up, Scott Clemmensen.

It was a move that no doubt has more than one member of the Maple Leaf Nation screaming conspiracy at the top of their soon to be silent lungs.

To be fair to the back up, he played a fairly solid game for the Devils, and while a little sloppy on puck control he none the less held the Islanders to account for a good portion of the game, Despite numerous scoring opportunities the Islanders could only tally two goals, both of which were scored by Richard Park, who ironically played a fair amount of his formative hockey in the Toronto area. (Go ahead blame his minor hockey coaches if a scapegoat is needed) an interesting bit of irony for Leaf fans to ponder on a most remarkable day.

The Islanders held the Leafs fate heading into the third period, when they began to falter, allowing the Devils to get back into the game, including a wild last .9 second of a goal that sent the Leaf’s misery into extra time. With a bit of a momentum shift taking place, Leaf fans would be forgiven if they perhaps thought they had been offered a stay of execution, with the Devils to provide deliverance in short order.

However, five minutes of Overtime settled nothing, despite a last minute of play that featured an Islander power play with a 4-3 advantage. With neither team scoring it was off to a shoot which saw the Islanders take a 2-1 lead into the final shooter, an effort from Sergei Brylin that was poke checked away by Dubielewicz bringing an end to the roller coaster of emotions on Long Island and setting a whole new wave of tears loose in Southern Ontario.

While the Leaf fans may not like their fate, they should remember that their heroes had more than enough chances in the last two weeks to avoid all the drama and secure a playoff spot, in the end as the Leafs and Habs stumbled through the last week of the season it was the Islanders that ran the four game winning streak into the final playoff spot.

The remarkable Islander win now provides the Metro New York City area with three different options for Stanley Cup cheering, a situation that will most likely bring a smile to the face of Gary Bettman while the CBC wonders whatever will become of their ratings now that Toronto can get Raptor crazy.

In fact, don’t be surprised if we soon hear conspiracy tales from depressed and angry leaf fans on how the Leafs hopes were not just dashed, but murdered on the last day of the season.

If this were a game of Clue, cynical Leaf fans might suggest that if not Lou, then perhaps the following as their prime suspect in the crime: The name of Colonel Bettman, in the office, with the telephone.

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