With one eye on the young Maple Leafs and another on the scoreboard, the Philadelphia Flyers greatly enhanced their playoff chances Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Not that it took much.
It didn’t hurt the Flyers latest move towards securing a playoff spot that their hosts played down to their status as the worst team in the Eastern Conference, despite the latest annual late-season surge.
The result was a 2-0 win for the Flyers as Brian Boucher, the fourth regular-starting goaltender for the Flyers this season, earned the shutout.
The Leafs’ lack of energy matched the vibe in the building as the home portion of the schedule ended without a playoff game for the fifth consecutive spring.
The anemic Leafs power play went 0-for-6 in one of the most uninspired efforts since the Olympic break. So fed up with the unit that was 0-for-3 and 0-for-6 in its previous two games that Leafs coach Ron Wilson had Colton Orr on the wing for the sixth try on Tuesday.
Just after the last of the power plays, Boucher made the save of the night as he just got his stick on a puck destined for the corner of the net.
After rolling over for the Flyers, the Leafs could do them another favour Wednesday in Manhattan where a Toronto win over the Rangers would go a long way towards assuring the Flyers a post-season spot..
The Flyers, meanwhile, are looking a little bit like the Raptors at this point. Sure they might make it into the playoffs, but sloppy, uninspired efforts like Tuesday’s suggests they should get ready for an early departure.
Daniel Giroux, with his second goal in as many games, put the Flyers on the board 11:01 into the first period on a power play set up by a bad retaliation penalty from the Leafs’ Mikhail Grabovski.
Giroux slipped in unchecked and quickly connected on a pass from Daniel Briere and beat a helpless J-S Giguere.
As for the rest of the night, other than Mike Richards’ empty-netter with 1:16 remaining, the less said the better.
If the Leafs were getting at all comfortable with their late season run, the home crowd wasn’t buying it.
Hundreds of empty seats greeted them, a stark reminder that yet another season ended in failure. When another Leafs power play frittered away at the end of the second period, the Leafs were escorted off the ice with a chorus of boos.
The game featured a little of the old-time Flyers-Leafs rivalry when some epic scraps were part of the show.
In the first period, Leafs defenceman Garnet Exelby took a decision against a suddenly timid Daniel Carcillo and later Orr filled in Arron Asham.
Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel shook off the muscle strain or cramp that had caused him to miss much of Saturday’s game against Boston as well as practice on Monday and was back in the lineup.
As the final home game of the season it was also likely the last time a handful of Leafs will where blue and white at the ACC.
The biggest name with the potential of making it a Toronto curtain call was Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle. While he won’t go anywhere if Brian Burke can’t get quality in return, it is expected that the Leafs GM will aggressively try to move the native of the Czech Republic once his no-trade clause is lifted following the season.
While they were unable to derail the Flyers prospects, the Leafs can hammer a big nail in the Rangers Wednesday in Manhattan. If they have any fight left in them, the Rangers will be fired up after losing to the Sabres last night to fall four points behind the Flyers for eighth in the East.