Work in Sports
Devils, Leafs meet in postseason for first time
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 01:20 AM
By Mike Zeizberger, SLAM! Sports
KANATA, Ontario -- Hello swamplands, Martin Brodeur, Bruce Springsteen and the rest of New Jersey.
Here come the Maple Leafs.
Goodbye House of Pain, Tom Barrasso, Jean Chretien and the rest of Ottawa. Your NHL season is over. Book the tee times.
For the second consecutive season under the tutelage of coach Pat Quinn, the Maple Leafs have advanced to the NHL Eastern Conference semi-finals. Quinn's bunch accomplished that feat thanks to a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators last night at the Corel Centre.
The win allowed the Leafs to eliminate the Senators in six games in the best-of-seven conference quarter-final.
As the final buzzer sounded, there was no wild celebration by the Maple Leafs as they congratulated goaltender Curtis Joseph. Winning one round in the Stanley Cup tournament hardly is reason to pop the champagne corks.
"We have more of a 'we-mean-business' attitude this season," said forward Steve Thomas, who scored his team-leading sixth goal of the series. "Not many people gave us much of a chance when we beat Philadelphia in the first round last year. This year, we were expected to win."
Waiting for the Leafs in the next round are the well-rested New Jersey Devils, who haven't played since completing a four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
The Devils shouldn't have as easy a time with the Leafs, judging by their head-to-head play during the regular season. The Leafs were the only Eastern Conference team the Devils were not able to beat this season, managing only a tie in four meetings with Toronto.
This will be the first time the two teams have met in the post-season. And it features two of the best goaltenders in the world -- Joseph and Brodeur.
Interestingly, Brodeur did not fare very well against Toronto this season. He posted a 3.89 goals against average and an .829 save percentage versus the Leafs.
On the other hand,Joseph was outstanding against New Jersey, going 3-0-1 with a 1.96 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
"It gives us confidence knowing we can score [against Brodeur]," Thomas said. "Don't get me wrong. He is a great goaltender. But I think we've shown this season that we can score against practically anyone."
Thomas was asked about his team's sparkling record against the Devils.
"Regular season doesn't matter," said Thomas, who played three seasons in New Jersey before signing with Toronto as a free agent in 1998. "We only beat Ottawa once all season and look what happened in the playoffs.
"Jersey has changed their style a bit. They're a bit more wide open than Ottawa."
The series against New Jersey gets under way on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. Game 2 goes Saturday night, again in Toronto.
In the end, the Senators' inability to contain the Maple Leafs' top forward unit of Thomas, Mats Sundin and Jonas Hoglund proved to be their undoing. The line scored 10 goals in the series, the same number as the entire Ottawa team.
The turning point last night came when Thomas scored just 12 seconds after Igor Kravchuk had given the Senators a 2-0 lead in the second period. Sundin, Sergei Berezin and Wendel Clark also scored in the second to put away the game.
"They were just announcing the Ottawa goal when Thomas scored," Joseph said. "That took the wind out of their sails."
Joseph, shaking off criticism fired at him earlier in the series, made 36 saves for the victory, which allowed the Leafs to become the only Canadian team to advance to the second playoff round for the second consecutive year.