Zebra to pasture
The NHL usually lets retiring officials select the site of their last game to be near friends and family. For Guelph-born Bill McCreary, hanging up his whistle Saturday night after almost 30 years and 2,000 games, that would have been Toronto, perhaps Tuesday against Washington or Saturday against the Canadiens.
But wishing to keep it low-key, McCreary chose the Capitals-Sabres game in Washington, where he first started on Nov. 3, 1984. The Leafs were probably grateful they wouldn’t be distracted from their playoff chase by a pre-game ceremony at the Air Canada Centre, but had plenty of praise for the 55-year-old’s work through the years.
“He was always pretty fair,” veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “You always knew that when he handled a game it would be more old-school. Maybe he would let a bit more go. But at the same time, he would be fair with both teams.
“I will always have respect for referees. It’s tough when you think how fast the game is and that a lot of criticism goes their way. That’s pretty impressive that he’s 55 and he has to stay in shape and skate up and down with the 20-year-olds. It can’t be easy.”
Added winger Clarke MacArthur: “He has been in the game a long time and he’s obviously a well-respected official. He’s put a full career in and our hats are off to him.”
Loop de Lupul
Joffrey Lupul went into Saturday’s game against Ottawa with six points in his past five games, coming off a three-point effort in Boston. Coach Ron Wilson said the patience in allowing him to get comfortable at a new poistion and ease his way in after complications from back surgery are startng to pay off.
“I don’t think his (game style) is any different,” Wilson said. “I think the big adjustment for him is just playing. He had missed almost a full year (with Anaheim). He’s also playing left wing rather than right, where he has played his whole career. So there are some adjustments, but we’ve been happy with his competitiveness and his aggressive play.”
Asked to define the calming effect James Reimer has had on the Leafs this year, Wilson said “I can’t ... it’s just there. Obviously James is playing well, but the way we’re playing, it wouldn’t matter who is (in net)”. Feb. 7 was the last time a goalie other than Reimer won a game, when Jean-Sebastien Giguere beat Atlanta 5-4 ... Winger Fredrik Sjostrom has now sat three straight games, a season high ... With three games remaining, Luke Schenn, MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel all have perfect attendance for the Leafs ... The win on Thursday in Boston was Wilson’s 100th with the Leafs. Only eight Toronto coaches have made the century mark, Punch Imlach (365), Pat Quinn (300), Hap Day (259), Dick Irvin (216), Red Kelly and Pat Burns (133) and John McLellan (126). Wilson began the weekend two wins shy of catching current Sens’ GM Bryan Murray for sixth in career wins ... Winger Joey Crabb turns 28 today.