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Leafs lose to visiting Wild in front of empty seats
By William Cornett

Leafs lose to visiting Wild in front of empty seats
The Wild were able to withstand the comeback being executed by the Leafs late in the third, allowing the game to end 2-1 in their favour. Charlie Coyle and Thomas Vanek tallied the two goals for the Wild, while Jake Gardiner netted his fourth providing the Leafs with their only goal. It was a sour way to end the evening as the Leafs organization honoured Eric Brewer and his feat of playing in his 1,000th career game.

Windsor - March 24, 2015 - The Toronto Maple Leafs lost. Again.

This is something that no longer comes as a surprise mainly because the team has been on a downward spiral since forever ago it seems. The heartache that comes with being a fan of the Leafs is not so bad this time of year for a number of reasons; the first being the fact that we already knew they were not making playoffs this season. Knowing that the Leafs are finishing up the year as a team that could spoil the playoff dreams of other clubs is worth the hour we take to watch them play. When the clock strikes zero, the burden of seeing the Leafs add another ‘L’ to their record no longer exists because the expectation of them being able to muster a win is so dismal that it too barely exists.

The Maple Leafs hosted the Minnesota Wild last night in a game that was closer than many believed it would be. What has been a pleasure to watch as the season winds down is the up-and-comers in the Leafs’ organization that have been given the opportunity to gain NHL experience. Toronto’s prospects have been using this opportunity as an audition to demonstrate to the brass why they deserve to remain with the main club. It seems as though the brass is impressed, as players such as Sam Carrick have remained in the lineup for the last few games.

Although these young players may enjoy their time in the limelight, the brass needs to make sure they do not forget about providing the Toronto Marlies with enough firepower to have a successful post season. With a record of 30-24-9, the Marlies sit just one point out of a playoff spot, and winning the majority of the remaining fourteen games will be critical if they intend on making an appearance in the AHL playoffs.

As for the Leafs, the Wild were able to withstand the comeback being executed by the boys in blue late in the third, and the game would end 2-1 in favour of the visitors. Charlie Coyle and Thomas Vanek tallied the two goals for the Wild, while Jake Gardiner netted his fourth providing the Leafs with their only goal.

What you need to know about the Toronto Maple Leafs after last night’s game:

Eric Brewer

The first positive to take away from last night’s performance was the pregame celebration of Toronto’s newly acquired defenseman and his 1,000th career game. Wendel Clark was on hand to present Brewer with a silver stick commemorating the incredible feat. Brewer joined the Leafs at the deadline, making it the third team the veteran defenseman has played for this season. Brewer began his career with the New York Islanders, and has since played for a total of six NHL clubs, including the Oilers, Blues, Lightning, Ducks, and Leafs. Through 17 seasons, Brewer has amassed a humble total of 267 career points. Overall, it a was a pleasant and modest ceremony honouring a player who has definitely earned respect from around the league due to his many years of gritty and tenacious competition.

Dion Phaneuf

The Leafs’ captain used his time on the ice to impose his will on teammates, playing with an aggressive attitude that has been M.I.A in the last 30 games. Although the score sheet had Leo Komarov leading the Leafs in hits in last night’s game, Phaneuf bullied Minnesota’s forwards with menacing hits, and impressive defensive play that exhibted improvement in the defenseman’s awareness and determination in the Leafs’ end. After laying a bone-crushing hit on the Wild’s Erik Haula, Phaneuf dropped the gloves with Kyle Brodziak, sparking a change in momentum, which led to Jake Gardiner scoring the Leafs’ first and only goal.

Jonathan Bernier

Much like the personality of the team, Jonathan Bernier displays the same Jekyll and Hyde complex in his play, as we never know which player is going to show up on game day. Fortunately for the Leafs in this outing, Bernier stood tall in net, stopping 30 of the Wild’s 32 attempts. The Leafs’ netminder provided a number of stellar saves that amazed those who were in attendance. Bernier’s effort in net provided the Leafs with the opportunity to win, but unfortunately for Toronto, Bernier’s counterpart, Devan Dubnyk, had other plans, stopping all but one of the 36 shots he faced.

Leafs Nation

Forget about the weekly jersey toss, Leafs’ fans have demonstrated a new way of lashing out against the Toronto organization. Monday night’s game featured the lowest attendance number for Toronto in the last fourteen years. In a city where it is nearly impossible to find tickets – and even if a fan is fortunate enough to acquire one it usually costs them an arm, or a leg, or rights to their first-born, their soul, and even the kitchen sink – it seems as though some fans have lost the will to maintain their loyalty to the Leafs, and have chosen to boycott attending this season’s remaining games. By no means was the attendance number anywhere close to those found in Buffalo or Glendale, but for an organization that beckons allegiance from its fans, the Leafs are in a delicate position and risk losing diehard fans to other teams. Quite honestly, the next few years will be difficult to watch, but for those who remain loyal to the organization, I cannot help but feel that they will be rewarded with a rejuvenated squad that can compete with the best in the league.

For those who have given up hope on the Leafs out of impulse, I ask that you reconsider. The upcoming offseason will be a busy one for Toronto, and with the Leafs having multiple picks in the first few rounds of the draft, I can only imagine the team will get better by the time October rolls around. Who is to say what team will take the ice once the 2015/16 campaign commences? Will it be one that provides hope and clarity, or will it be one that causes anguish and despair? Only time will tell.

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