(4/30/02) My team played their hearts out this season. They are not the reason we lost this series. There are two organizations at fault.
One is the League. The NHL is the only place where you can deliberately injure another player and get off with, at most, a twenty or so game suspension. Any other sport, you'd be out. You'd never play the game again. In the past few nights, at least three players have been deliberately injured and had to sit out. Several others were injured deliberately, but continued to play. Only one injurer was punished, and that was a measly two game suspension.
The other is the Toronto Maple Leafs. In no other series were there as many deliberate cheap shots as there was in the Isles-Leafs series. There was the hit on Zednik by the Bruins. That was it. Absolutely no incidents in the Detroit-Vancouver series. I can't say I watched any other series as closely as I did these two, but I also did not hear about any dirty hits from any other series.
The Leafs are cowards. They knew they could not possibly win by merit. So they decided to even things up a little by taking out our two best players. When Detroit was down 2 games to none, they didn't retaliate by knocking out Todd Bertuzzi. When Philly went down 3-1, they didn't go after Bonk or Havlat. When we went down 2-0, we didn't take any cheap shots. We hit hard, but cleanly. The same can't be said for Toronto.
And not only were our playoffs affected, but the beginning of next season as well. Mike Peca won't be able to have the surgery he needs until the swelling in his knee goes down, which might take a week or two. That puts him at halfway through May. Rehabilitation from ACL repair surgery is rarely less than six months. That means we will be without our captain on the ice for a month and a half.
We gave 'em hell. At the very least, we gave 'em hell. Every man on the bench was crying after this game, including Peter Laviolette. Many fans cried as well, I among them. You can point out how much we improved over last year, you can say that we would never have beaten Ottawa, or Detroit. But it still hurts. And it's going to keep hurting, for a while. But maybe some day, we'll be able to look back on this season and smile. Some day...