For a sport that really likes to show off how tough its players are, hockey players don’t seem to have much tolerance for anything that makes them feel bad in the slightest. At least on the ice. Toronto’s Morgan Rielly was just the latest to wet himself when an opponent reminded him just a little too much that the Leafs lost a game:
Did you know that Ridly Greig broke some unwritten rule that you can’t shoot a shot into an empty net at the end of the game? Of course you didn’t, because that would be a ridiculously stupid rule to follow. Nobody cares if you close out an NBA game with a breakaway dunk. If a player can make it a 360 or reverse jam or something cool, so much the better. Baseball players love to fill their pants about stupid stuff, and yet no one seems to mind when a position player pitching sees one of his offerings to Jupiter being cracked.
But no, that won’t do for the Leafs and Rielly, who went Dale Hunter on Greig for his apparent crossing of a line that was only in the Leafs or Rielly’s head. And if you’re wondering what kind of institutional control might be going on inside that Leafs room, here’s old hand-on-the-tiller Sheldon Keefe on what he thought of his only good d-man getting himself action for the next few weeks, probably, about nothing:
Given two days to reflect on his comments with the realization that Rielly has a personal hearing and is more certain to miss six games or more, Keefe once again let his brain fluid drip from his mouth:
Dig up, stupid.
The Leafs have lost touch with both the Panthers and Bruins in the Northeast, and will now spend the final 30 games of the season scratching and clawing for the final automatic spot with Detroit, as well as the Wings, Islanders, and whoever who else gets hot for even a wild-card spot. Which likely means that however many playoff series the Leafs play, they won’t have home ice for any of them. Not that it ever saved them in the past few years, anyway.
Keefe must be concerned with the fact that his team loaded with speed and scoring talent is a mediocre rushing team, or that his bottom six is a mess, or that his slow defense is far too passive, preventing the team from getting as much as that it should come out in the open ice. Or that their goal scorers are either hurt, bad, or both.
But no, that’s what the Leafs are all about. There’s an obvious answer here, which is that if a team doesn’t want an opponent to get a whiff of an empty-net goal, the right strategy is to not get yourself into a situation where to pull against the goalkeeper. by far the division’s worst team. Don’t you want to see the team on the other bench celebrate a win? Great, beat them. Otherwise, take the loss and keep quiet. But in Toronto, no one ever accepts anything and they certainly never shut up about it. Go, Leafs, Go.