lundi 30 mars 2015

Maple Leafs take early 'series' lead



source : torontosun.com

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment won’t be able to mark up the ticket prices, but their hockey team is at least trying to convince themselves they’re in the playoffs as the calendar approaches April.

It’s a motivational tactic by interim coach Peter Horachek to give some meaning to the final seven games. Beginning with Saturday’s match against Ottawa, Horachek told the Leafs to think of winning at least four of seven to capture the ‘series’.

“Well, were not in the playoffs, so I was anxious to get in (somehow),” said Horachek after beating the Senators 4-3 on Saturday. “I think it’s a good way to keep the guys focused on playing these games. I do not want them just to play, I want them to play hard.

“We’re playing teams that these games mean something to. You should be at your best. (Tonight) was Game 1 in our building. It was great to see them come through.”

The last four real series the Leafs won in playoff years 2004, ’02, ’01 and ’00 were all against Ottawa, which returns for a game this coming Sunday. In between, Toronto hosts Tampa Bay on Tuesday, is in Buffalo Wednesday and faces the Bruins in Boston Saturday.

Brennan back, Marlies win

Veteran defenceman T.J. Brennan was sent back to the Marlies in time for the Sunday afternoon game in Rochester and made an immediate contribution.

With his bread and butter, two assists on the power play, he aided Toronto’s 4-3 win. The victory was key after the farm team failed to hold a third-period lead at home against Hamilton the day before and fell 2-1. The biggest offensive force Sunday was winger Connor Brown with a goal and three assists as the Marlies stayed on the cusp of a crowded Western Conference playoff race. Brown leads all American Hockey League rookies with 55 points. Also scoring Sunday were William Nylander (with an assist), Greg McKegg and Ryan Rupert.

The Marlies have 10 games remaining, including Wednesday at home against the Chicago Wolves.

Reimer remains in mix

With Saturday’s win and a good relief performance Thursday against Florida, goalie James Reimer has played his way back into the conversation for more work in the final games. But two back-to-backs this week would likely have seen him play a couple anyway.

Reimer said he and Jonathan Bernier thrive in the kind of atmosphere that Saturday’s third-period comeback created, a liveliness the ACC has not experienced often the past three months.

“When the fans are getting loud, it’s such a boost,” Reimer said. “Maybe there are times in the game where the legs are burning or one line keeps getting put out and energy is low. But when the crowd is rocking like it was tonight (sellouts are apparently back in fashion), it feels like you can play forever.

“Lately, our character, heart and our compete level has been challenged. Starting with our big guns, we showed what we’re capable of. We’ve been under fire recently and to come out like this and have some puck luck was great to see.

“Tonight was a game where I felt I saw the puck well, I was on my angle and felt solid.”

Loose Leafs

Eric Brewer’s overtime winner was the first by a Leaf defenceman since Dion Phaneuf on Feb. 28, 2013 ... Phaneuf is one point shy of 400 in his NHL career ... After a big win Friday at their NCAA regional, Leaf draft pick forwards Tony Cameranesi and Dominic Toninato had their Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs downed 3-2 by Boston University.