McCabe's game sank to a new low

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:05 PM ET


 When the door to the Maple Leafs room finally opened, there stood Bryan McCabe in partial dress, not nearly as naked as he had seemed on the ice.

 Not nearly as fragile or pathetic as his performance as in yet another sorry Philadelphia story for the Leafs at the Wachovia Center. But just as alone as he had left his teammates.

 "You can put the loss square on me," said McCabe, who faced the post-game music with far more composure off the ice than he managed on it. "It was probably my worst game as a professional."

 His second worst game may have come in Game 4.

 Yesterday, had McCabe fallen out of bed during his pre-game nap, he likely would have missed the floor. He was that disastrous. And he was the mirror for as terrible a time as it was for the Leafs. He led, and his teammates sadly followed.

 It's one thing to lose a game. It's another to lose your mind. And your composure. And your competitive spirit. And maybe your reputation.

 And it's worse when a player some have considered among the best defencemen in the NHL, has his first three-point period of the playoffs, but all three points ended up in his own goal.

 "I hope (I can bounce back)," McCabe said. "It can't get much worse than tonight."

 No, it can't.

 There are photos on the wall above the lockers in the Philadelphia dressing room, individual pictures of the players honoured in the Flyers Hall of Fame. And there is no truth to the rumour they may be making room for McCabe's photo next. But if there are any more games like yesterday, they might consider it.

 In truth, McCabe might have been alone in the dressing room, but he wasn't alone in saving his worst possible performance for as significant a game as this. His partner, Brian Leetch, played as soft as tissue. The Mats Sundin-Gary Roberts-Alexander Mogilny trio was overwhelmed by Flyers' big centre Keith Primeau.

 "We looked like Swiss cheese out there," said coach Pat Quinn, insulting the cheese family in the process. "I just don't know what happens to guys who have egregious sort of errors. You think never in a playoff game should those things happen.

 "It is two games in a row (for McCabe). It is clearly out of pattern for him. Maybe the one (giveaway) from the other night caused the one tonight. The fear factor, that happens in a players' mind.

 "This is a team game and it's not about one person, but sometimes one guy has a bit of trouble. When you focus on things that could go bad, they do go bad."

 In fairness, McCabe may have begun the avalanche, but the seats were all occupied on the ride downhill. Ed Belfour allowed six goals on 18 shots -- his weakest playoff performance since, uh, Game 7 last year here.

 He didn't make one big stop. Quinn didn't exactly help matters either. With the Leafs overwhelmed early and the score 2-0 before the game was six minutes old, he could have called time out and at least taken some of the energy from the wild Flyers crowd. Instead, he didn't react and his team didn't react.

 "The emotion in the (home) building is like a downhill ski run," Flyers' coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If the emotion starts to snowball for the home team, it seems to equally unravel for the visiting team."

 It has happened here three times for the Leafs this series, but none as unsettling as this 7-2 defeat. It has happened twice to the Flyers at the Air Canada Centre.

 "We need to put this behind us," McCabe said.

 And that is the challenge for he and his teammates. A daunting challenge for a player exposed and unnerved on the worst afternoon of his hockey life.


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