Playoff push great for team: Giguere
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jean Sebastien Giguere is lit by a spotlight during pregame introductions before they play the Anaheim Ducks in their NHL hockey game in Toronto, January 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
OTTAWA — Until he arrived with the Maple Leafs last season, the playoffs were an annual rite of spring for Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
He appeared there five straight times with the Anaheim Ducks, with more tham 3,000 minutes and a Stanley Cup in 2007. Which makes the Leafs’ current tenuous situation a blessing and a curse for the veteran goaltender.
“We’re not out of it yet and for the most part, the games we’re in now are very much like playoffs,” Giguere said prior to Saturday’s game against the Senators. “We’re playing a lot of teams either desperate to get in the playoffs or trying to get a better spot. If we were in the playoffs now, we’d be regarding these games as great preparation. But if you’re a young team and you’re fighting for that spot, you look upon it as a great experience.”
Though he has been relegated to spectator with James Reimer’s dramatic emergence, Giguere was sweating bullets on Thursday when the Leafs pulled an unexpected upset in Boston. They needed a third-period goal, a huge penalty kill in overtime and then a shootout goal from Nazem Kadri.
“Super-exciting,” Giguere said. “We went through every emotion. It’s a good sign for us, because two or three months into the season (when they were in danger of falling towards the conference basement), I don’t know if we’d have found a way to win a game like that. Now we’re finding ways, not always pretty, but it’s working. It’s a sign that we’re playing with a lot more confidence and believe in each other more.”
Winger Clarke MacArthur has no NHL playoff games to his credit, held back by the Buffalo Sabres each year when the “real” games started and then missing out when he was traded to the non-contending Atlanta Thrashers last year. He has played nine games with Rochester of the AHL since 2005 and thus has as much hunger as anyone to played beyond next Saturday.
“We don’t want to be the team that misses by one point,” MacArthur said. “We have guys with playoff experience and we’d like nothing better than just to get there.
“In the last month, a lot of guys have learned what it takes to be a playoff team, that it’s a hard push down the stretch.”
Yet the Leafs have lost count of must-win games and the mental and physical toll they take.
"With a young team, maybe we have a little extra in the tank,” MacArthur reckoned. “There are a lot of guys trying to prove themselves for jobs next year, with this team or maybe not here, and I think that’s helping.”