On Tuesday, the second-place New Jersey Devils came to play their road game at the Air Canada Centre, clogging up the neutral zone and waiting for the Maple Leafs to make a mistake. Which might have worked, had they been able to take the lead. But the Leafs played patient, capitalized on the power play, and held on for a 2-1 win. It was only after the oft-maligned Nik Antropov scored the Leafs’ second goal that the Devils came to life. But all that matters is the Leafs got their 2 points in the standings and are now level with Carolina and the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot with just nine games left in the regular season.
There were actually a few audible boos in the crowd after Antropov was named the game’s first star, having scored his 16th goal of the season and second game-winner in the past week. Perhaps Nik needs some support from his famous (and equally lanky) movie-star compatriot from Kazakhstan.
What really got the crowd going was the marathon heavyweight fight between Wade Belak and Cam Janssen, known in these parts as the goon that took out Tomas Kaberle a couple weeks back. Credit to Janssen, he took quite a beating and didn’t go down or back off from the challenge as the crowd chanted Belak’s name. Next up is a home-and-home series down the QEW against some first-place team that we tend to have trouble with. But at least we’ll have Kaberle back on defence.
Less than 24 hours later, the magicians at the ACC had transformed the corporate hockey arena into a corporate basketball arena, although the crowd had thinned out considerably. Although the announced attendance was 18,326, the actual turnout was surely a few thousand less. The playoff-poised Raptors were up against the Orlando Magic, a team fighting for a postseason berth, but the game was perhaps overshadowed by the news that star rookie Andrea Bargnani underwent an emergency appendectomy in the wee hours of Wednesday morning at Mt. Sinai. He’ll remain there for a few days to recover. Teammate Jose Calderon had his appendix removed two years ago and was back on the court three weeks later, so hopefully Bargnani can recover in a similar fashion and be back to help the team in time for the playoffs.
Already missing Anthony Parker and Calderon to injuries, the Raptors nevertheless dominated on the boards and withstood a late charge from Grant Hill and the Magic, who were never able to break the lead to under 4 points. Chris Bosh was Chris Bosh, leading the team with 34 points and 16 rebounds, as the Raps won 92-85.
On a lighter note, there was a battle during the breaks in the action between the Raptor and none other than Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle, the Stephen Colbert-induced mascot from the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. The Raptor, it should be mentioned, was ranked as the #1 mascot in sports by Gameops.com, just ahead of Steagle Colbeagle. Although judging by the crowd’s somewhat muted reaction, not many in attendance had ever watched The Colbert Report, and there is certainly an abundance of backstory to this and his running feud with the Raptors. Maybe they should tune in soon to see if Colbert responds to the Raptor’s declaration by sign that Colbert is also, quote, “dead to me.”