It was during a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on Saturday, February 22 when the unthinkable happened: both of the Carolina Hurricanes‘ netminders (James Reimer and Petr Mrazek) had to leave the game because of injuries they sustained. Emergency backup goalie, David Ayres, was forced into action for the Hurricanes. You also have to keep in mind that he was the practice goalie/Zamboni driver for the Toronto Maple Leafs and had never played in an NHL game.
Things Went Off the Rails
He ended up making eight saves on ten shots, in a 6-3 victory over the Leafs. It was the first time in league history that an emergency backup goaltender had won a game. It was considered by many to be rock bottom for the Leafs this season.
Social Media Frenzy
Social media platforms were in a frenzy after yet another ugly loss for the Leafs, but this situation was particularly disheartening. It was a double-edged sword: many people viewed it as a feel-good story seeing Ayres make history, yet it was embarrassing for the Leafs to lose to an emergency backup goalie.
But Hope is Not Lost
Before this week, the Leafs had strung together three consecutive wins since that disastrous Saturday night. They beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks. The Lightning and Canucks are currently in playoff positions, while the Panthers are on the outside looking in.
The Leafs have been a Jekyll and Hyde team the whole season, as you never know what they’re going to bring to the table on any given night. Some games they look like an elite team, while others they look lost and disinterested.
It looked like they had a favourable schedule heading into the week, with three games against non-playoff teams: the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Unfortunately, things haven’t panned out so far, as they lost 5-2 to the Sharks, and 1-0 to the Kings in a shootout.
However, they do have a five-point lead on the Panthers, but they can’t allow themselves to become complacent. They’ve had a bad habit of coasting when things are going well, which leads to sloppy play. A domino effect usually follows, beginning with one or two bad periods and then multiple games where they put forth poor efforts.
On the plus side, Cody Ceci will be in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Ducks, which will bolster their defensive core. Morgan Rielly is expected to return in the near future as well. If the Leafs can play somewhat consistent hockey during their final 14 games of the regular season, they should be able to hold steady in third place in their division.
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