On a night when they got off to yet another lousy start on home ice and again lost starting netminder James Reimer to injury, you might have expected this to have been one of those dark, disastrous evenings for the Maple Leafs.
But it didn’t turn out that way. Not at all.
Yes, Reimer’s undisclosed leg injury is a major concern. But in the minutes following the Leafs’ 5-2 trouncing of the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, there was no sense whatsoever that this was a hockey club with a pall of gloom hovering over it.
Dion Phaneuf chatted amiably with children in the hallway outside the Leaf dressing room, then disappeared before emerging with a souvenir stick. Mark Fraser, a stunning plus-five on the night and an eye-popping plus-11 on the season, happily discussed being the game’s third star.
Colton Orr held court with the media for, well, the longest time he has ever decided to share his thoughts. Ben Scrivens clomped along a rubber carpet in the bowels of the Air Canada Centre and cheerfully chirped “Thanks very much” when fans shouted congratulations on his remarkable relief performance.
If there is something truly different, maybe this was it, that there was no overriding sense that should Reimer be lost for a significant period of time — the Leafs said afterward that won’t be the case — it will be the adversity that undercuts another in a recent series of strong starts to an NHL regular season by the Toronto squad.
“We’re becoming a hard team to play against, you can see that,” said Orr, who scored and continues to be an inspiring story of a veteran refusing to be escorted to retirement.
As good as Randy Carlyle’s team looked in beating Montreal by an unconverted touchdown two nights earlier, it was arguably more impressive in hammering Philly.
First came the discouraging start, with the Leafs crashing into one another and falling down during the first shift of the game before meekly surrendering a goal to Wayne Simmonds at the 38-second mark.
But instead of sagging, the home team attacked as if heartened by all the recent successes on the road, tying the game before the end of the period then putting two quickees past Ilya Bryzgalov in the Philadelphia net in the opening 2:33 of the second period.