Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, you know it's spring when..

Ah yes, with a bit of a tease of something different, the annual spring time ritual has returned to Southern Ontario, the countdown is over as to when the Leafs will be eliminated from the playoff race.

The lads in Blue and White gave it a pretty good ride however towards the end of the season, offering up a sense that this year might be different, but in Leaf land dreams sometimes have to be deferred to a later date, this time thanks to the Buffalo Sabres who with their win on Tuesday officially banished the Leafs to spectator status for the 2011 Stanley Cup festivities.

And while fans in the GTA and other outposts in Ontario, across Canada and at the CBC may bemoan the fate of their favourite angst machine, this year seems to promise something different, a sense of hope that the dark days may truly be on the edge of banishment.

The March run that moved into April (far beyond the usual extinction date for the Leafs playoff aspirations) bode well for 2012,  and while you never want to get too optimistic when it comes to Toronto, there does seem to be a change finally in the mindset of those that carry the Leaf on their chests.

With some solid goaltending down the stretch from the newly ensconced 23 year old rookie James Reimer, the foundation finally seems in place for progress next season.  The disappointment that seems to have descended on the dressing room after Tuesday's elimination offers up the thought that this group had started to believe, a valuable bit of currency for the future.

Rather than just having gone through the motions of yet another departure from the spring hockey season, this group of Maple Leafs truly seemed to believe that they were on the verge of clawing their way into the playoff race, the disappointment of having come up short will perhaps provide the incentive for better days to come when the puck drops in September.

They still have a few games to play out the string of the 2010-11 regular season, but, for the first time in a very long time, Maple Leaf fans may be able to issue the traditional cry of "wait till next year" and actually believe that it may be true!

Globe and Mail-- Leafs officially eliminated
National Post-- Leafs fans may finally have reason to hope
Toronto Star-- Fun ride, but Leaf honeymoon's over 
Toronto Star-- Leafs lose to Capitals in shootout, playoff drive officially dead 
Toronto Sun-- Leafs eliminated from playoffs 
Toronto Sun-- Leafs captain takes loss hard 
Toronto Sun-- Reimer deserves to be No. 1 Leaf goalie next season

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