April 3, 2011
Leafs don't do anything easy: Burke
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - A night in Brian Burke’s private box is feeling more like a few laps on the Thunder Run coaster at Wonderland.
The Maple Leafs general manager and his lieutenants have gone through every twist, turn, sudden drop and quick ascent, watching their team win six of the past seven games to stay alive — barely — for the final playoff spot.
“They’re the cardiac kids,” Burke said of his young team after a two-goal lead was blown, then restored in Saturday’s win in Ottawa. “They don’t do anything easy. But they never quit. I have no fingernails left and my hair’s getting even whiter.
“But I’ll take this charge we’re on. The best thing about it is that it’s not a seven or eight-game spurt at the end when things don’t matter. It’s been a meaningful charge for about seven weeks now.
“Look at what they’ve accomplished. I’m really proud of them, I just hope we don’t run out of runway here.”
Indeed, the hardest thing for Burke and the team to track off the ice is the shrinking NHL calendar and the out-of-town board. With the New York Rangers’ shootout win over Philly on Sunday, the Leafs have to win their final three games and hope the Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes somehow implode.
The Leafs are home against Washington on Tuesday, by which time the race could be decided, then in New Jersey on Wednesday before closing out Saturday at the ACC versus Montreal. None of three foes has anything to play for really, with the Caps and Habs in and the Devils out, but neither can anything be taken for granted at this time of year.
“It’s not great news out there, but it’s not completely negative,” Nazem Kadri said Saturday after the Hurricanes lost in overtime.
“I guarantee you that each game we win, those teams are looking back and holding their breath a little bit. We’re trying to up the pressure on them and hopefully, we get the job done.”
The Leafs have rarely let up against any team, regardless of standing, since a run of 18-7-5 began after the all-star break. Eighteen of their games have been one-goal decisions. In two of the past three games, the Leafs let 2-0 leads get away, while rallying to beat Boston when the Bruins almost never surrender third-period leads.
“It shows the character in our group to not let momentum shift, good or bad,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We can’t get down when the other team scores.
“We’ve been in tight games for so long. You ask any team that if after Jan. 1 the games get really tight. Now you’re down to the last 10 and they are like playoff games.”
Toronto helped its chances by posting three straight four-goal games last week, not enjoyed since they started October 4-0 in the win column.
“We’ve had the scoring, not deep into our lineup, but we still find a way,” coach Ron Wilson said. “We have two lines playing well and very dangerous right now and we’re getting some offence on occasion from the back end, particularly from Dion. That’s all you can ask for. James (Reimer) made big saves when we needed them and that’s all you can ask of your goalie.”