Leafs Host Oilers in Round One of JAFHL Playoffs Oct 29, 2019 15:14:00 GMT -6
Post by TorontoGM on Oct 29, 2019 15:14:00 GMT -6
An assortment of Leafs tussle with the Oilers and the ghost of Mark Messier.
Toronto, ON (CP) - The Toronto Maple Leafs claimed home-ice advantage this past weekend thanks to a scintillating run of form that saw them piece together a ten-game unbeaten streak. Their reward for their solid finish to the season will be to host the fifth-seeded Edmonton Oilers, a team they beat three out of four games in the regular season, though Toronto's general manager is quick to pump the breaks on those games being an indicator of how the series will go.
"The playoffs are a different beast than the regular season," said GM Mok. "I saw a lot of growth and maturity throughout the year from our group, but many of them have not had much experience in the playoffs. The Oilers will be a great first test for a lot of them."
Much of that growth and maturity came from the forward corps, as rookie captain Mark Recchi took a blowtorch to preseason expectations and ended up leading the team in goals, assists, and points. With one game remaining tonight, Recchi has 42 goals and 57 assists, putting him one point away from hitting the century mark in his first year with the club. When reached for comment on his potential, though unlikely, Calder Trophy-winning season, the soft-spoken captain did not say a single word. Known in the dressing room for leading by example to the point of being a complete mute, he simply grunted and stared deep into the eyes of the pool of reporters.
If the Leafs make it to the second round of the playoffs, they will be leaning on outspoken goaltender Glenn 'Superdude' Healy, trying out a new nickname for the second season. He will have to be various kinds of 'super' to stop the deadly Edmonton attack led by Glenn Anderson and his 90 point season. Healy's been well rested for the playoffs, splitting games with newly acquired backup Glen Hanlon who was picked up before the trade deadline and has been given the moniker 'The Other Glen' by the starter.
"The Other Glen is quite good at standing in for me when I get overbooked, which happens often," said the Leafs starting keeper. "He's not as good looking as I am, of course, but very few people can handle the handsomeness that is my unmasked face."
In addition to Hanlon, Toronto also bolstered the roster before the deadline with a number of capable veterans. Doug Sulliman was brought in from Philadelphia and scored two hat tricks while in Leaf blue, while Mats Naslund currently has 14 points in 16 games skating on a line with Recchi and tough guy Wendel Clark. However, the most notable addition to the team was defender Ulf Samuelsson from Pittsburgh.
The Leafs had to give up promising centre Ed Olczyk to get him, and though Olczyk was in the midst of a career year, GM Mok felt it was necessary to acquire an upgrade on the blueline. "We scoured the league for a defensive upgrade, but teams were rightfully holding tight to their under-25 defenders," he said at the press conference to welcome Samuelsson. "Ulf is a classic shutdown defenceman, and we're really excited to have him grow with our young core."
Samuelsson will have his skates sharpened and knuckles taped as Toronto plays Vancouver in the final game of the regular season tonight. All eyes will be on the captain as Recchi sits one point away from the century mark, four points short of the league lead in points, and four goals away from the Rocket Richard Trophy. It's highly unlikely Recchi will come away this year with any individual hardware, but a career night in the finale against the Canucks could turn into a coronation for the silent starer.