McCabe shares spotlight

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Bryan McCabe is having a magical season on the Maple Leafs blue line but whenever he is asked about it he immediately credits his tricky partner, Tomas Kaberle.

"He does all the hard work," McCabe said. "I just shoot the puck. He never panics and you can't teach that. He makes my job a lot easier. I don't have to touch that thing (the puck) too much, which is nice."

McCabe's compliments are nice, but he is being bashful. McCabe's coming of age this season has been somewhat surprising, mostly because he has been scoring at such a precipitous rate. With 30 points (nine goals and 21 assists) in 21 games, McCabe leads all NHL defencemen in scoring and entering play last night was ninth in overall league scoring.

Ian Turnbull holds the Leafs record for most points by a defenceman in one season, set in 1976-77 when he had 79. McCabe, whose previous best output was 53 points two years ago, is on pace for 117 points.

And to think there was some gloom predicted for McCabe, who was not even on Team Canada's radar screen before the season but now is a serious candidate for the Olympic squad.

The thinking was that McCabe would not be able to adjust to the NHL's new non-clutching world and that he would spend a lot of time in the penalty box.

But with 34 penalty minutes he is about where he normally would be at this point. And though Kaberle (28 minutes 29 seconds a game) and McCabe (28 minutes 23 seconds) are behind only Chris Pronger in average ice time, neither is showing signs of faltering.

"(McCabe) has been really sharp offensively and getting himself in good spots, but right now lots of good things are happening for him," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "He is getting accolades he has earned and deserved."

Quinn was the Leafs general manager from 1999 to 2003 and the swap that brought McCabe from the Chicago Blackhawks for Alexander Karpovtsev was Quinn's best.

"Hindsight is marvelous," Quinn said. "I have always been good after the fact."

Riding a four-game winning streak, the Leafs were given yesterday off. Next up are the Boston Bruins here on Wednesday night.

"We had a tough two-week stretch before our little run so hopefully we are taking a few strides forward," McCabe said. "The biggest key is staying out of the box. It means everyone is getting in the game. We have been pretty shady defensively, but we are doing better as a team now."


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