By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Apr. 4) – For the second time in less than 11 months, Patrice Bergeron has likely hammered a final nail in the Toronto Maple Leafs coffin. Having scored the overtime winning goal at TD Garden last May 13 to cap a remarkable comeback by the Boston Bruins, Bergeron may have again snuffed out Toronto’s last playoff hope when he tumbled backward onto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier Thursday night at Air Canada Centre.
Bergeron received more than a little help on the play (which occurred at 8:22 of the third period), as Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger shoved him directly onto Bernier and was assessed a minor penalty for interference. Though Randy Carlyle called it a “lower-body” injury (duh!) after the game, Leafs announced today Bernier has a a strained Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) in his left knee and will be sidelined “for three weeks.” Bernier missed five consecutive games (all Leaf losses) from Mar. 16-23 with a groin injury worsened in an ill-fated start at Los Angeles.
LEAFS NO. 1 GOALIE JONATHAN BERNIER REMAINED ON ALL FOURS THURSDAY WHILE CHATTING WITH ATHLETIC THERAPIST PAUL AYOTTE. HE WAS THEN ASSISTED TO THE DRESSING ROOM WITH HIS LEFT LEG OFF THE ICE. GRAIG ABEL GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM
So, the Leafs. No. 1 goalie is done for the season and would not start the playoffs were the club to somehow qualify. Of course, if Leafs do grab the second wild card, it would be as a result of James Reimer winning four consecutive games: Winnipeg in the home finale tomorrow night; then on the road in Tampa, Sunrise FLA and Ottawa. Given the opposition (Lightning excluded), this is not an impossible task for the streaky Blue and White, and Reimer has won a number of big matches, including three against Boston in the playoffs last May.
By losing eight consecutive games, however, Leafs relinquished their playoff fate. Detroit, Columbus, Washington and New Jersey (teams still in contention for the wild card berths) all have two games in hand on the Leafs. Blue Jackets are primary – situated in the final playoff spot, one point ahead of Toronto. Columbus has six games remaining:
Tonight vs. CHICAGO
Sunday vs. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Tuesday vs. PHOENIX
Wednesday at Dallas
Friday at Tampa Bay
Saturday at Florida
HOME GAMES IN CAPITALS
Not an easy schedule, by any means. But, Columbus likely requires three wins at most to fend off the Maple Leafs. Along with the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks, Leaf eyes will be on two other games tonight: Buffalo at Detroit and Washington at New Jersey. Tomorrow night, it’s Winnipeg at Toronto, Washington at New York Islanders, Detroit at Montreal and New Jersey at Carolina. Undeniably, desperate – perhaps futile – scoreboard watching for fans of the Blue and White.
And, Patrice Bergeron is largely to blame… again.
BERNIER INJURY SEQUENCE
Overhead camera on the TSN hockey telecast provided a detailed glimpse of Jonathan Bernier sustaining MCL sprain in his left leg:
RANGER DUELS WITH BERGERON IN FRONT OF BERNIER AND SHOVES THE BRUINS FORWARD TOWARD NET WITH BERNIER’S LEGS EXTENDED ACROSS GOALCREASE…
BERGERON FALLS ON TOP OF BERNIER AND THEN ROLLS DIRECTLY ONTO BERNIER’S RIGHT LEG WHILE GRABBING THE CROSSBAR TO REGAIN HIS FOOTING…
BERNIER IS NEARLY PRONE ON THE ICE – RESTING ON HIS KNEES AND ARMS – AND IS THEN ASSISTED TO DRESSING ROOM WHILE KEEPING LEFT LEG OFF THE ICE.
POST-EXPANSION MAPLE LEAFS
Next in my series of NHL pages-from-the-past are Maple Leaf Gardens programs from the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons – the second and third years of expansion (after the league doubled to 12 teams). These, in my opinion, were the most colorful program covers in Gardens’ history, with full action photos (and photo collages) from Leaf home games:
EARLY-SEASON GAME vs. BOSTON IN 1968-69.
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