Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Top 20 Maple Leaf moments of the decade - The top 10

This is the second half of the Top 20 Leaf Moments of the Decade list. If you missed it, the first part of the list can be found here.

10. Stumpy wins it - April 22, 2000

Game Five of the 2000 first round series between Ottawa and Toronto was a strange one. The first 55 minutes were deadly dull, with the Leafs mailing in a half-hearted effort and the Senators nursing a 1-0 lead by playing a perfect (i.e. boring) road game.

Then Steve Thomas scored with five minutes left to tie it. And then all hell broke loose. The two teams turned up the tempo to close out the third period, and then went on to play an end-to-end overtime period that featured a dozen scoring chances.

That's when the Leafs unveiled one of the most dastardly trick plays in recent sports history: Sergei Berezin passing.

As an added bonus, Thomas and Berezin reacted to the game winning goal by performing a WWE-style double clothesline on each other.

9. PING! - April 13, 2001

You already know what goal it is just from the headline, don't you?

In the four-pack of Leaf playoff wins over the Senators, the 2001 series was actually the only one where the Senators had home ice advantage. Well, not so much "home ice advantage", since that implies that you get to play some games in front of fans that are actually cheering for you. But the Senators were the #2 seed in the East that year, and were expected to beat the lowly #7 seed Leafs.

Didn't happen. In fact, it didn't come remotely close to happening, as Curtis Joseph shut out the Senators in each of the first two games and the Leafs completed a four-game sweep back in Toronto (giving the Senators the distinction of not scoring a single post-season goal in their own arena). And it all started with a tight Game One that was tied 0-0 midway through the first overtime.

Don't worry, Sens fans. There's brighter days ahead in this rivalry. (I'm sorry? What's that? Oh. I've just been informed that there are, in fact, not brighter days ahead.)

8. Tie Domi fights a Flyer fan in the penalty box - March 29, 2001

I wrote about this one back in September as part of the Top 10 Leaf Fights of All-Time post. I included a transcript of what's going through this Flyer fan's mind:

"Hey, Domi just sprayed water on me, which technically ends my month-long streak of not bathing! I think I'll bang on the glass and try to look tough when I know he can't reach me. Hm, I wonder if this glass can support 300 lbs of cheesesteak and loneliness? No, apparently it can not. Oh god, I'm going to die. Also, I just soiled myself on national television. Go Flyers!"

Domi never really got the credit he deserved here. While he did enough to defend himself, he somehow resisted the urge to go Rob Ray on the poor slob. And that should count for something, shouldn't it?

By the way, how perfect is the "Dunkin Donuts" ad placement in the penalty box?

7. Sundin's milestones - October 14, 2006 and October 11, 2007

Mats Sundin was so good that he actually broke Darryl Sittler's all-time Leafs scoring record twice in the same game. He was credited with a second period assist against the Islanders and held the record for about a half hour before officials revoked the point (Sundin hadn't actually touched the puck).

No problem. Sundin came out in third period and scored a goal of his own. That gave him 390 goals and 917 points as a Leaf -- breaking both of Sittler's franchise records with one shot.

While the moment was clearly important in terms of history, the goal came in the late stages of a blowout against the Islanders and was a fluke shot that wasn't really worthy of the moment. Then again, what's the guy supposed to do for a major milestone? Score a short-handed overtime hat trick goal on Hockey Night in Canada? Fine, if you insist:

(And in case you're wondering, I combined these two moments because they both represent similarly memorable milestones in Sundin's great career, and certainly not because I realized I still had 11 moments that needed to fit into a top 10 list. I don't know why you'd even think that. Look, why are we arguing? Let's change the subject: Hey, who wants to see a Finnish guy get his brains scrambled?)

6. Darcy Tucker destroys Sami Kapanen - May 4, 2004

This hit from the 2004 playoffs was undoubtedly the most vicious hit of the decade by a Maple Leaf, and quite possibly by any NHL player, period. Kapanen was so decimated by the impact that officials immediately whistled the play dead, and the rest of the shift never happened. Did you hear me? THE REST OF THE SHIFT NEVER HAPPENED!

No penalty was called on the play, although technically you could make a case for charging, boarding, and second degree manslaughter. The league reviewed the hit, and promptly suspended the Maple Leafs from ever participating in the playoffs again.

Um... is that guy in the front row wearing a bathing cap,a helmet, or amateur wrestling headgear?

5. Gary Roberts scores in triple overtime - May 4, 2002

Hey look, the Leafs and Senators seem to be involved in some sort of crucial post-season game. I wonder how this will turn out?

Wade Redden with his finger up his nose still makes me laugh every single time.

4. Sundin returns - October 14, 2008

Let's get this out of the way first: I wasn't a fan of the way Mats Sundin left Toronto. I stand by that. But that's history now.

But when Sundin made his return to Toronto as a member of the Canucks, everyone got it right. The Leafs, who honored their former-captain with a classy video. The fans, who gave him a loud and long ovation. The players, who refused to take the faceoff until Sundin had had his moment. And finally Sundin himself, who composed himself (barely) and then went on to score the shootout winner.

The only way this moment could have been better would have been if the fans had had the chance to thank Sundin when he was still wearing a Leafs uniform. Speaking of which...

3. Thank You Wendel - April 27, 2000

While you don't really associate Clark with the current decade, his last stint with the Leafs came at the end of the 1999-2000 season. He played 20 mostly forgettable regular season games and was scratched for the team's first playoff games. Pat Quinn inserted Clark into the lineup midway through the first round, and he scored the series-clinching goal against the Senators.

And then game one against the Devils:

2. Mats Sundin's last second goal against the Hurricanes - May 28, 2002

In the final minutes of Game Six of the 2002 Conference Finals, the Leafs found themselves trailing Carolina 1-0. For reasons nobody has ever been able to fully explain, Arturs Irbe was unbeatable in this series, and the Hurricanes were choking the life out of the Leafs on their home ice. As the seconds ticked down, the Leafs' miracle playoff run seemed doomed.

Well, not so fast.

This goal is notable for being the only known example of that horrible "behind-the-net" camera view that directors fell in love with in the first half of the decade actually working. It also gave us not only a memorable Bob Cole call ("... and the place goes crazy!") but also a legendary Joe Bowen meltdown that included him infamously screaming "You talk about heart and dedication!"

It all ended up being futile, of course. The Hurricanes won in overtime, eliminating the Leafs from a series they absolutely should have won. But for a few seconds at least, I doubt there was a goal during the decade that had Leaf fans screaming any louder.

1. Lalime's meltdown - April 20, 2004

It's probably fair to say that by the time the Leafs and Senators met in a 2004 first round series, the two teams hated each other. The Leafs were the corporate behemoth that kept kicking the smaller kids around the playground. The Senators were the small-market underdogs who were supposed to be scrappy and valiant but usually just wound up wiping snot from their noses while the sobbed about being picked on.

So with Daniel Alfredsson guaranteeing victory, Eugene Melnyk running his mouth, and the Senators vowing to finally "slay the dragon", the two teams met for the fourth time in five years. And with nothing settled through six games, it was on to Toronto for a final game seven showdown.

The hockey world was expecting a classic. Instead, they got a classic meltdown.

The Kilger goal was excusable. The first Nieuwendyk goal was awful. The third was almost impossibly bad, the kind of disaster you need to watch over and over again just to convince yourself it was real. And that's the goal we're going with as the #1 moment on the list.

There were probably more important goals scored this decade. There were certainly much better ones. But whether we like it or not, the Battle of Ontario defined the decade for both franchises, and no moment captured the rivalry more perfectly than this one: Leaf fans cheering; Leaf players celebrating; and a Senator slumped on his knees, defeated, and ready to quit.

Honorable mentions

There were a few on-ice moments that didn't make the final list, but deserve a mention. In no particular order:
  • The Leafs/Islanders bloodbath in 2002 - This was perhaps the most vicious series of all-time, but it's hard to pick an actual moment that stands out. Maybe Tucker's low-bridge on Peca?
  • The Leafs/Habs season finale in 2007 - Definitely one of the most memorable games of the decade, but it was rendered moot thanks the Devils laying down for the Islanders the next day. Besides, the only moment from the game that stands out was Andrew Raycroft giving up a horrible goal, getting pulled, and then not caring.
  • Ricard Persson hits Tie Domi from behind - But if Domi had better balance, the Senators would have won.
  • Alexander Mogilny scores his 1,000th point in the Leafs comeback against the Sabres in 2004 - Confession time: I have absolutely no recollection of this happening. Was I in a coma? This is bothering me. (Update: robviper to the rescue with a newly posted youtube video.)
  • Mario Lemieux returns to the NHL and scores three points against the Leafs - Hard to pick a moment where the Leafs got lit up, but any hockey fan had to enjoy this game.
And I'm sure I missed a few. Let me hear about them in the comments.


  1. Heh. Shouldn't you re-title this the Top 20 moments of the Leafs from 2000-2004, since those moments only seem to involve the post-season, and the Leafs have not made... well, I don't have to spell it out for you do I? No, I didn't think so.

  2. At least Berezin had the good sense to make his only pass ever in the NHL a good one.

  3. Anonymous: I guess you missed moments 20, 17, 13, 7, and 4 . . .

    The usual comedy gold. "That's when the Leafs unveiled one of the most dastardly trick plays in recent sports history: Sergei Berezin passing." ROFL!

  4. A small correction on one of the runner-up selections: The Devils were not "laying down" for the Islanders in the 2007 finale. Actually, NJ scored to tie the game in the final second of regulation, ultimately falling in the shootout. It was a hell of a gritty effort by the Devils given that the game was completely meaningless for them.

    Even as someone who isn't a Leafs fan I love your stuff - just gotta keep you honest on the details.

  5. They were flat for most of the game against a vastly inferior team, and they played their terrible back-up goaltender.

    The fact that they needed a last second goal to tie it up is testament to that enough.

  6. Shouldn't McCabe's own goal be on there?

  7. I can jog your memory about the Leafs/Sabres game:



    Perhaps you missed it because it was only shown on Sportsnet Ontario?

  8. @RobViper13...

    Wow. Yeah, no recollection of that game at all.

    It took my about half of the clip to realize the game was in Buffalo.

  9. Fantastic list, really brought back some great memories. To make it slightly less biased towards pre-lockout era and series against the Sens, I would have found room for this game:


    April 2006, the Leafs were charging for the playoffs (they would miss of course), Sundin took the team on his back with a 4g2a game. He factored in on all 6 Leaf goals in a clutch overtime win.

  10. I would have put the 2007 finale on the list if only for Bowen's countdown and hearty "BYE BYE MONTREAL!" at the final horn.

  11. You know what the one constant is for this list? Bob Cole.

    It was great getting to hear him call the game again on Saturday.

  12. I was in the building for Sundin's 500th and for Game #6 vs. Carolina...and re: that one, what people tend to forget is that Toronto started overtime with a 3-on-1 consisting of Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts and Jonus Hoglund. Hoglund took the shot. That haunts me almost as much as Gelinas' goal, which took place right underneath where we were sitting.

    Of course, since I've been reliably informed that the Leafs haven't won a single hackey game since 1967, this list is clearly a sham.

  13. @Paul...

    Never heard that Bowen call. There really should be an archive somewhere of his best work. Cole is easy enough to find on youtube but the radio stuff needs to be available.

  14. #6 was one of my favorite moments as a Flyers fan. Kapanen gets absolutely destroyed but keeps the play going by stumbling like a drunkard to the bench.

    Conversely, #8 was probably my least favorite moments as a fan. Some fat, drunk idiot falls in the box and perpetuates the stereotype that goes with Flyers Fans. Moreover, he was fat enough to break glass designed to keep people away from players simply by leaning on it. That level of fattitude is to be admired... in a weird way.

  15. I can tell you why Domi didn't go Rob Ray on that Flyers fan. Simply put, would you want to touch a Flyers fan?

  16. Hilarious commentary by Joe Bowen and Harry Neale on the Domi-fan incident in the link below.


    I miss Harry Neale. Bowen with Millen just isn't the same.

  17. "The fact that they needed a last second goal to tie it up is testament to that enough."

    The fact that they were playing right up to the final horn is a testament to their unwillingness to lay down.

    I was at that game, and it was surreal - Devils fans were torn between instinctively rooting for their team to win and wanting the Isles to knock the hated Leafs out of the postseason picture. There was a sizable contingent of Islanders fans collectively having an aneurysm with every play, and a small smattering of Leafs fans choking back their vomit while having to pull for a Devils victory. A very, very weird atmosphere for the last regular-season Devils game ever played at Meadowlands.

  18. Great list of course.

    A couple of thoughts....

    #10 - anybody notice the TSN ticker at the start of the clip which announces Dan Bylsma as the new coach of the Penguins AHL team in Wilkes-Barre? Oh, and I miss, I mean really miss in a I'd have his children kind of way, Danny Markov.

    #9 - That goal by Sundin kicked the composite stick revolution into high gear. After that goal, everybody wanted to be able to shoot a puck so hard it broke the sound barrier. Thats' what the ping is. You never actually see the puck.

    #5- Too bad that quintessential Tucker hit was marred by that JR creep winning the game a moment later.

  19. You missed the Blues game, where Toronto was up 5-0 with 14minutes to go in 3rd period, and Blues score 6 straight to win in OT

    greatest come back in NHL

  20. I'm a Habs fan, so lots of references to the team I love in the few comments :

    "That's when the Leafs unveiled one of the most dastardly trick plays in recent sports history: Sergei Berezin passing."

    Sounds like every few times Scott Gomez actually shoots (and even scores !)

    "As an added bonus, Thomas and Berezin reacted to the game winning goal by performing a WWE-style double clothesline on each other."

    Nothing like all the awesome Rock-Stone Cold double clotheslines they used to do, though.

    -Darcy Tucker destroys Sami Kapanen

    My Habs didn't have this type of player in at least 2 decades. It's not as if they had Tucker in the team. Oh, wait !

    -Lalime's meltdown

    I've seen 3 games in which there was a meltdown. Patrick Roy's last performance with the Habs (9 goals allowed in less than 2 periods). It might be the 1st of 3 "Montreal Screwjob (the 2nd being the real-life Bret Hart departure in WWE and the 3rd being Lucian Bute retaining his boxing title because of a referee starting the count after an unjustified 15 seconds). But Roy's performance was so disgusting that it became a pre-Carey Price ritual of allowing bad goals in Montreal.

    The other meltdown was Carey Price vs Flyers on Game 5 Eastern Conf. Semi Finals. Watch the highlights. The 2 luckiest goals ever, plus 3 bad goals that were disgusting.

    Lalime, who had one on the most up-and-down rollercoaster NHL careers ever, simply lost it on that match. He never became a #1 goalie ever since.

    -The Leafs/Habs season finale in 2007

    This one hurt the Habs fan in me, big time. They needed 1 win out of the last 2 games, but Huet, coming out of an injury, replaces Jaroslav Halak who already was awesome for about 20 games. They lost vs the Rangers in a disgusting performance. Then came the game...

    The Leafs had something like 20 shots in the 1st 10 minutes, but somehow the Habs get a 5-3 lead after a Michael Ryder Hat-Trick. The Leafs scored a goal after a dumb penalty by Steve Begin (or someone not named Koivu, for a change). Then the Habs came flat in the 3rd, getting 4 or 5 shots, and Guy Carbonneau, a guy I'll never refer as a "coach", benches the Ultimate Enigma Alex Kovalev. Huet, in the game, allowed 2 or 3 of the weirdest goals ever seen and the Habs were eliminated.

    I truly believe Halak deserved the net on this match, and this marked the 1st of oh-so-may moments Halak got benched for no good reasons at all...