Before the start of Saturday night’s game against Calgary, the Maple Leafs held a moment of silence for murdered Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell. Three senior command officers from 52 Division saluted at centre ice.
Don Cherry also paid tribute to Russell in his Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada, showing the hockey sweater Russell wore when he played for the Gun and Gang Unit team.
“Life is so unfair,” said Cherry, noting the irony that Russell was killed after being struck by a stolen snowplow while the accused (Richard Kachkar) “gets three or four bullets in him and he lives.”
A tribute is also being held overseas in Afghanistan.
The Toronto Police Service flag is flying at half-mast at a military based outside Kandahar City. The 35-year-old Russell, who was killed Wednesday, leaves behind a wife and a two-year-old son.
Toronto goalie J-S Giguere did himself and the Leafs a big favour by playing well against the Flames, thereby avoiding any further controversy in the media.
If Giguere had not played well, everyone would have continued to second guess the Leafs for sending young goalie James Reimer, who won three out of four games on a recent road trip, back to the Marlies and starting Giguere instead on Saturday night.
Giguere, who was returning from a groin injury, was a natural to start against the Flames, having posted a 6-2-0 record with a 2.32 goals-against average in his last eight games against them. Giguere was good and lucky. Alex Tanguay had a wide open net early in the third and rang it off the crossbar.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson was guarded in his praise for the veteran goaltender, to say the least.
“(Calgary) missed on a few (shots),” Wilson said. “He only had to make a couple of really big saves.”
MATTY WE HARDLY KNEW Ya
Apparently, there’s not a lot of passion in Toronto for Matt Stajan, who was part of the trade with Calgary last January which landed the Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf. Unlike Phaneuf, who was booed heartily when the Leafs played in Calgary on Dec.16, Stajan’s first visit to the ACC since the swap was met with a collective yawn. The crowd booed only when his goal was announced in the third.
Of course, right after he scored, the TV cameras went to Leafs GM Brian Burke in the team box and then Wilson behind the net. Burke appeared less than over the moon.
Stajan scored, but isn’t exactly lighting it up in Cowtown. In 66 games with the Flames, he has six goals. Phaneuf, a 20-goal scorer during his record season with the Flames, has three goals in 54 games with Toronto.
Leafs fans aren’t allowed to boo him though.
WILD LEAFS STUFF
First-line winger Clarke MacArthur went down hard in the Calgary end in the first period and was slow to get up. He lost his balance as Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano took him into the boards. He was attended to at the bench and only missed a shift or two. Good Canadian Boy! ... The crowd around the TV to watch Coach’s Corner in the media box was smaller than usual, with half of the media guys watching the Steelers-Ravens NFL playoff game on the other TV ... The Flames have now won four straight against the Leafs ... Kiss Cam in the second period was one of the highlights of the game up to that point ... Calgary defenceman Jay Bouwmeester is the current NHL ironman, with his streak now at 469 games ... Flames captain Jarome Iginla had a three-game point streak snapped ... Jeopardy guy Alex Trebek, appearing on the Jumbotron in a Leafs sweater, called Leafs fans the loudest in the NHL. If Trebek was playing his game, he would have been deducted points for that — because it’s wrong. ACC crowds are among the quietest ... Mikhail Grabovski has now registered points in 15 of his past 18 games, with 13 goals and six assists.
The Leafs seemed to have Miikka Kiprusoff’s number in the shootout. At least early.
Both Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong beat the Calgary goaltender high to the glove side, while Phil Kessel failed to score by trying to shoot between Kiprusoff’s legs.
In the sudden-death portion of the shootout, instead going high, glove side, like you think he might have, given the success of Bozak and Armstrong, Grabovski attempted the deke, but was poke-checked by the Flames goalie. Then Olli Jokinen beat Giguere for the Calgary win.