Pair of aces get flushed

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:23 PM ET


 Bryan McCabe and Brian Leetch both went into the dumper on Sunday in Game 5, and it became clear that this pair was in need of some much-needed rest.

 That came in the form of the Maple Leafs' elimination from the playoffs last night.

 McCabe -- who was a minus-5 in Toronto's 7-2 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Sunday, including two egregious giveaways that resulted in Philly goals -- had averaged an oppressive 28 minutes 28 seconds per game for the Leafs during the post season entering Game 6 last night. That was more than any player, other than goaltenders, in the NHL during this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

 Leetch was averaging 28:15, the third-highest of any player in the post-season, slightly behind Adrian Aucoin of the New York Islanders (28:20). However, Aucoin played in only five playoff games, while the two Leafs dressed for their 13th game last night. That's an awful lot of ice time. And don't forget, Leetch is 36, ancient by NHL standards.

 Toronto coach Pat Quinn rolled four lines more than almost any team in the playoffs, including the Flyers.

 But Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock has been much more balanced in distributing minutes to his defencemen.

 In fact, it's almost uncanny how evenly the Flyers defence has shared playing time. Top blue-liner Kim Johnsson was averaging 24:09 entering last night, while Marcus Ragnarsson, Danny Markov and Vladimir Malakhov were all averaging 22 minutes.

 Had the Leafs extended the series to a Game 7, it would have been difficult for Quinn to tinker with his defence. With Ken Klee out indefinitely with a knee injury, it's likely the coach would have had to rely more and more on McCabe and Leetch.

 McCabe and Leetch were a match made in playoff heaven for Quinn and both were still in the plus category for the overall playoffs before last night. But as the Flyers series went on, it showed that they were human and were becoming fatigued.


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