Monday, August 3, 2009

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - The final seconds of game seven against the Sharks

Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - An ongoing series to honor the greatest, completely meaningless moments in Toronto Maple Leaf history.

By the time the second round of the 1994 playoffs rolled around, the Leafs had seen their last four playoff series end in the following ways:

That all happened in just 13 months. When it came to ways to end a playoff series, Leaf fans had run the gamut. There was absolutely nothing that could happen that they hadn't seen before.

What's that, Sylvain Lefebvre? You say you have an idea?

Hm, OK. Yes, that's a new one.

If you missed it, that's Leafs defenceman Lefebvre deciding, for some reason, to fire off a 200-foot wrist shot as time expires. But instead of floating down the ice, his shot drills innocent bystander Peter Zezel point blank in the chest. The puck bounces past a confused Felix Potvin and into the Leafs' net.

The goal was ultimately meaningless, since the Leafs had a 4-1 lead at the time. But it still results in the most muted game seven victory celebration in the history of sport, with all six Leafs on the ice standing around and staring at each in confusion. (Years later, Paul Maurice would install this as the team's official defensive system.)

Here are a half dozen things I love about this play.

Felix Potvin's reaction
Watch as Potvin turns around to stare at Lefebvre, then goes into his post-game crossbar tapping routine, then stops and turns to Lefebvre again.

I would love to know what was said here. I'm guessing it was something along the lines of "qu'est que c'est the hell was that, tabernac?" I think Potvin briefly considered going Hextall on him.

The Sharks' celebration
Nice work by the one Shark in the middle of the screen (who may or may not be Jeff Norton) who does the exaggerated stick-in-the-air celebration. Even though his season is officially over, he's going to passive-aggressively milk this late goal for all it's worth. Life is all about savoring the small victories.

In hindsight, of course, he was right. This goal is the best thing that's ever happened to the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs.

The fallout
There wasn't any. Nobody even remembers that this play happened.

But while we're on the topic, here's a question: when you think of a recent example of a defenceman scoring into his own net, who do you think of?

It's Bryan McCabe, isn't it?

Why? How did this become the gold standard for NHL own goals? I know McCabe was a whiny stiff by the end of his time in Toronto, but he scored his goal during a mad goalmouth scramble at the end of a meaningless regular season game that the Leafs were going to lose in a shootout anyways.

Meanwhile, Chris Phillips scored the Stanley Cup winning goal into his own net while the other team was changing lines, and nobody ever mentions it. Doesn't that belong up there with Bill Buckner and Scott Norwood?

And yet McCabe's play follows him for life, and Phillips never hears another word of it. Is it because McCabe once had a funny haircut? We're all OK with this? I mean, just let me know and I'll play along...

The gambling implications
I don't know what the spread or over-under on the game was. But you know that somebody, somewhere, lost a lot of money on this play. I'm sure they laugh about it now, though. They'd probably give this whole post a big thumbs up. You know, if they had any thumbs left.

Kevin Collins
The highlight of the video is the frenzied reaction of linesman Kevin Collins, who storms onto the scene, waving his arms and demanding that everyone pay attention to him.

Veteran ref Terry Gregson seems ready to let the whole thing go, but not Collins. He's going to make sure the goal counts, dammit. Watch his reaction at 0:25 when the horn blows, and he starts shrieking "NO!" like the hero in an 80's action movie who just saw his child gunned down.

Now it would be easy to make fun of Collins here, since he's acting like the smarmy grade school kid who reminds the teacher that they forgot to assign any homework. But he's right. A goal is a goal, and this one needs to count.

After all, you can't ignore the rules just because you're in the late stages of a crucial playoff game, right Kevin? You have to be able to make the tough call against the home team. The rules are the rules, and you can't just take the easy way out and pretend you didn't see what was right in front of you.

Right Kevin?

(Breathes deeply into a paper bag.)

Now I'm angry. I need to see something completely ridiculous to make me feel better about my life.

Damian Rhodes' hair
Yep, that'll do it.

Hey, looks like somebody's been using his Head and Shoulders!


  1. After all, you can't ignore the rules just because you're in the late stages of a crucial playoff game, right Kevin? You have to be able to make the tough call against the home team. The rules are the rules, and you can't just take the easy way out and pretend you didn't see what was right in front of you.


  2. You sure you didn't snipe Felix's reaction from Rock'em Sock'em 6?

  3. Between 0:58 and 0:59, Kent Manderville says "HULK SMASH"

  4. Notice that it was actually two Sharks that raised their sticks above their heads in celebration.

    In comparison, even Alex Ovechkin didn't celebrate when Fleury gift wrapped him a goal in Game 7 when they were getting blown out.

  5. Great post. Perhaps the only fallout was that the sense of magic and destiny wasn't there anymore. Suddenly they looked vulnerable and capable of mistakes. The next round Vancouver knocked them out all too easily in 5 games.

    P.S. Another great obscure moment might be the Larionov crossbar in Game Six in overtime and Bob Cole declaring "Scores!".

  6. @ The General

    It was Garpenlov but that's another great moment. It looked and sounded like it was all over.

    This last goal is hilarious because, like you said, the crowd has no idea what to do and neither do the players.

    It would have been great to see Potvin fight Lefebvre. One killed Hextall and the other one-punched Brown which gave us a beloved blog about 13 years later. That would have been a titanic battle.

  7. I like how Todd Gill confers with the refs to see if the goal counts. Understandably, he thought it was ineligible since neither Lefebvre nor Potvin deked around him first.

  8. Whoop's had to edit the post...

    Love the obscure moments series. It has brought us gems like the guy in the pink shirt flipping the bird, "un-bee-leeb-abba" and it made Chris Durno a folk hero!

    I can't wait until the post coming after Kerry Fraser's AM 640 session.

  9. DGB the best part is that in the youtube clip for Doug Gilmour's Head and Shoulders commercial you can clearly see the blurry VHS lines on the bottom of the screen.

    Which means, at some point, you had a blank VHS tape in the VCR and sat there, on edge, waiting for the opportunity to record Doug Gilmour's Head and Shoulders commercial.


  10. Kevin Collins was such a friggin drama queen.

  11. I was actually at that game. Last home Leaf game I went to.

    We had no idea that puck went in. Too busy celebrating.


  12. I think the reason nobody cares so much about Phillips' own goal is because the Sens were utterly dominated in that game. It was the cowbell to add the cherry on top of a gong show.

    Plus Leafs fans love to make goats of their players, which is what makes it so hard to be a defenseman/goalie for this team.

  13. The reason everyone remembers McCabe and no one remembers Phillips is that nobody really cares about anything that happens the Ottawa Senators.

  14. LMAO great find remember this one clear as day you gotta start writin up other toronto sports your the bill simmons of toronto hahaha

    DGB strikes again

  15. Personally, as a habs fan I remember O'Byrne own goal better than those of McCabe and Phillips. I'm not sure McCabe's mistake is universally seen as the "gold standard for NHL own goals" around the league.

    But I love this series of posts.

  16. Personally I'm with the Habs fan. O'Byrne for me is the 'gold standard' for own goals.

    Only because that one was an own-goal!fail for the ages there.

  17. Gary "Wife Stealer" LeemanAugust 10, 2009 at 4:22 PM

    Someone throws a beer that lands about 4 feet to Potvin's right at :18 (maybe the fan was trying to hit Mark Osborne).

  18. I'm sorry, the "own goal" gold standard in the NHL is ... and will always be ... Steve Smith.

    Anything less is, well, less.

    But I grant you, Philips is a very close second. 3rd would be the guy from Minnesota (?) who gloved the puck and then threw it in his own net.

  19. most flagrant own goal nomination: Johnny Bower
    long-shot stick save, turns to his left
    entirely misses the backboards and instead spatulas the puck into the net