For a team that exits the 2010s without a single playoff series victory, there is no shortage of memorable Toronto Maple Leafs moments from the past decade — good, bad and ugly.
From Phil Kessel swinging a lightsaber at big John Scott, Curtis McElhinney stoning Sidney Crosby at the doorstep, the kids making the post-season ahead of schedule, John Tavares returning home to his bed-sheets squad and Auston Matthews sniping the Centennial Classic winner with a forgiving Dave Keon in the house, the memories are indelible and plentiful.
Here’s our top three.
4-1 is the most dangerous lead in sports • May 13, 2013
The most memorable Maple Leafs moment of the decade is a painful one, because of course it is. For 52 years, Toronto’s hockey narrative has been an exercise in misery, broken up by the odd bout with devastating disappointment.
When Nazem Kadri scored 5:29 into the third period on that night of May 13, 2013, giving Toronto a 4-1(!) lead over the Boston Bruins, Maple Leaf Square partied like Round 2 was reality.
Cue the greatest comeback/collapse in Game 7 NHL history.
Nathan Horton scores at 9:18. The Bruins pull Tuukka Rask with two minutes left. Toronto can’t hit the open net. Milan Lucic scores with the sixth attacker on the ice at 18:38. Patrice Bergeron ties it with 51 seconds on the clock, and again in overtime — thrusting a goalie (James Reimer, under siege), an organization and a city into a state of shock.
James Reimer face-down on the ice after 2013 5-4 BOS OT playoff loss – burned into my mind pic.twitter.com/5cvtAgeVVt
— Acton Clarkin (@actonhere) December 22, 2019
So, when the Leafs later gave away three one-goal leads to the Bruins to squander Game 7 at TD Garden in 2018, or failed to stomp the throat in either Game 6 or Game 7 in the 2019 rematch, those failures feel quaint by comparison.
“We were undocking from the space station and returning to Earth during that final game of that series,” Canadian astronaut and noted Leafs fan Chris Hadfield told The Toronto Star.
“While I was coming down in flames, the Leafs were going down in flames too, unfortunately.”
Auston Matthews hits ’em with the four • Oct. 12, 2016
The scorched-earth rebuild, the trading away of sniper extraordinaire Phil Kessel and miscast captain Dion Phaneuf, the washing the sins of Salutegate, that bizzaro Peter Horachek era, the expertly executed tank campaign and president Brendan Shanahan holding a No. 1 placard at the finale of the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery while the most expensive head coach in hockey history jumped for joy in his living room… it all made sense on Opening Night of the Auston Matthews era.
The soon-to-be Calder Trophy winner scored not once, twice or thrice but four times in his NHL debut as superstars from around the league began tuning in and tweeting their amazement at the clinic in Kanata.
“It was pretty surreal,” Matthews said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
“That’s the best night we’ve had since I’ve been here by 10 miles, not even close,” former coach Mike Babcock said. “Now we have an opportunity.”
And an entire nation of Leafs fans felt the same.
In a perfectly Leafian twist, it was Ottawa’s Kyle Turris — Matthews’ man, he’d admit — who scored the overtime winner for the Senators, but for once there was hope. A franchise centre had arrived, with a bang. Hey, how many single regular-season hockey games spawn their own rap songs?
Tyler Bozak scores in a snow globe • Jan. 1, 2014
The spectacle was a long time coming — a lockout put the kibosh on the 2013 Winter Classic — but totally worth the wait… and the white-knuckle drive across Highway 401.
The historic outdoor matinee at Ann Arbour’s Michigan Stadium packed 105,491 Detroit Red Wings and Maple Leafs fans into the Big House, warmed them with cold domestic beer and sprinkled their toques with snowflakes the size of toonies. Best of all, some marketing wizard dreamed the idea of selling half the building’s seats to Toronto supporters and the other half to Detroit, creating a red-versus-blue battle line in the stands.
Aesthetic bonus: Both teams wore darks.
That the game itself was a tight affair with three lead changes and a back-and-forth shootout was a cherry on top of the snow globe. Tyler Bozak capped off the victory by sniping low-blocker on Jimmy Howard, prompting Babcock to crown the day “a home run for hockey.”
“Having 105,000 people screaming and yelling for us is really amazing,” Bozak said. “As hockey players, we’re never going to forget that.”
Blue Jays agree to three-year deal with OF Brantley – TSN
The Toronto Blue Jays have not added Michael Brantley, yet.
Contrary to earlier reports, ESPN’s Jeff Passan writes there is no agreement in place as of yet between the two sides. He notes the Blue Jays are still in on Brantley, and could still reach a deal with the veteran outfielder.
After the Jays reached a six-year, $150 million agreement with Springer late Tuesday night, TSN Blue Jays Reporter Scott Mitchell tweeted there were “legit legs to the Michael Brantley package deal” and the Blue Jays are very open to it.
Mitchell noted Tuesday night that adding Brantley, a 33-year-old left fielder, would create an outfield logjam, but the Jays could use the surplus to upgrade their pitching on the trade market.
Brantley had been the mark of consistency at the plate during his lengthy big league career and that continued once he arrived with the Houston Astros after the 2018 season.
Brantley has hit .309 combined over the past two seasons, good for eighth best in baseball over that span.
Prior to his tenure in Houston, Brantley is known for the 10 seasons he spent with Cleveland, appearing in 1,051 games during that time period. He is a four-time All-Star and a one-time Silver Slugger Award winner (2014).
Brantley was originally selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh round of the 2005 MLB Draft and arrived in Cleveland in a 2008 trade deadline deal that saw left-hander C.C. Sabathia head to Milwaukee.
Edmonton Oilers coming apart at seams through first four games of season – Edmonton Sun
Article content continued
There’s no word on whether one of them is Maple Leafs Zamboni driver David Ayres.
With Stuart Skinner as the current backup, having a total of zero games of NHL experience, the Oilers are going to be relying heavily on Koskinen, who looked better in the second game against Montreal, but still gave up two soft goals in the loss — one on a wrist shot from the blue line and the other from behind the goal line.
“Yeah of course this is not what we wanted and we can’t get frustrated,” said Koskinen, who has faced 145 shots and conceded 15 goals. “It’s only four games done and we have to keep the work ethic and find a way to win games. It’s going to be a long push and we need to be ready when we play against the Leafs in a few days.”
The Oilers are going to need better than a 3.80 goals-against average and .897 save percentage to get back into the hunt. They’re also going to need the power play to be much better.
A unit that scored once on every three opportunities last season, has two goals on 18 man-advantage situations this year and has already given up two shorthanded goals.
Not having James Neal on the top unit hurts, but Barrie has not made the impact expected yet and his biggest contribution to date was not inadvertently breaking up a drop pass from Draisaitl to McDavid, which led to a highlight-reel goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
“I think we have to shoot the puck more,” Tippett said. “We had some chances but you’ve got to bury some of those chances. Montreal’s doing a good job around the front of your net and you’ve got to pay the price to score. And we didn’t bury the chances and we didn’t shoot the puck enough.
“You look at the two games, I think we had 10 power plays and we came out minus-2 on power plays. That’s an area that should be one of our strengths but it wasn’t the last two games.”
The Oilers can’t rely on McDavid and Draisaitl scoring four points per game to win. The supporting cast put together by Holland on a shoestring budget, after paying the top three forwards $27-million combined, has to start punching above its weight.
If they can’t, then those four playoff spots in the North Division could pull away in a hurry.
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
Rivers retiring after 17 seasons in NFL – TSN
Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune he is retiring after 17 seasons in the NFL, 16 with the Chargers organization.
Rivers spent the 2020 season with the Indianapolis Colts, leading the team to the playoffs before losing to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round.
The 39-year-old threw for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
Prior to his lone season in Indianapolis, Rivers played 16 seasons with the Chargers split between San Diego and Los Angeles.
Rivers was drafted fourth overall by the New York Giants in 2004 before getting traded to the Chargers as part of a deal for Eli Manning.
An eight-time Pro Bowler, Rivers finished his career with 63,440 yards, 421 touchdowns, and 209 interceptions. He ranks fifth all-time in the NFL in both passing yards and touchdown passes.
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