Penalty-killers deliver

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

The name isn't the only trait Clarke Wilm shares with Bobby Clarke.

Named by his hockey-loving dad in honour of the former Philadelphia Flyers captain, Wilm's willingness to do whatever messy, non-glamourous grunt work is required would make Bobby proud.

Thanks in part to Wilm's ability to be an irritating pest for overconfident opposition power plays, the Maple Leafs' penalty-killing unit quickly is becoming one of the better casts in the league.

Entering play yesterday, the Leafs ranked seventh in the NHL in short-handed situations, killing off 86.2% of their penalties. Opposing teams have scored just eight times in 58 man-advantage situations against the Leafs, including a 0-for-10 performance by the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

The unit has been especially efficient of late, killing off 39 of the past 42 penalties (92.8%) and allowing the Leafs to salvage points in games they might otherwise have been run out of the building.

Such was the case against the Bruins, who held a five-on-three advantage late in regulation, then enjoyed a four-on-three power play for more than half of overtime.

Yet the likes of Wilm, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Alex Steen and Matt Stajan came through in the clutch, holding the high-octane Bruins power play off the scoreboard during Toronto's 5-4 shootout victory.

Goaltender Ed Belfour was the best penalty-killer of the bunch in crunch time, but he did have some valuable help from his friends.

"It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it,"said Wilm, who was singled out by coach Pat Quinn for his fine penalty-killing work while the Leafs were down to three men.

"It's nice to hear (Quinn) say that. That's my role here -- to kill penalties, be an energy guy and try to provide a spark. Obviously it's a great boost of confidence when he trusts you to get the job done.

"It's not always the scoresheet that tells the tale of the game. A lot of guys do things that don't go noticed by the stats but help the team win.

"To me it matters how my teammates and coaches feel about the way I play. If they show trust and respect at how I play my game I'll be happy."

Wilm, 28, became eligible for his NHL pension by playing in his 400th career game 11 days ago, a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

"There is no question he is valuable, whether it be his great faceoff skills or killing penalties, and you need those talents in this era of special teams hockey," Quinn said yesterday. "When you are short one and two men as often as teams are now, good penalty-killers are a precious commodity.


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