Baby Buds in the playoffs

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

All the Way From St. John’s

With Mile One Stadium having booked the Juno Awards this week and the Leafs on a season ending road trip, the Baby Buds will be coming to town. The St. John’s Maple Leafs will be invading the ACC for the first of a three game playoff series versus the Providence Bruins Wednesday night, with games 2 and 3 (if necessary) in Brampton Thursday and Friday. Suffice to say by the booking, not many in the know expected this version of the farm club to get to the post-season, but here they are, and in the big rink nonetheless.

The club will be lead by AHL Scoring Champion (and John B. Sollenberger Trophy winner because of it) Donald Maclean up front, Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award winner Nathan Dempsey on the blueline, and Central Hockey League Rookie of the year Sebastien Centomo in goal. That said, of late there have been a few new heroes in the lineup thanks to a couple of call-ups to the big club due to injuries and injuries striking the St. John’s roster itself.

With Nik Antropov out for the year, Paul Healey sticking with the Leafs and Jeff Farkas having broken a finger the team has had to turn to other sources for offensive production. While it has been expected that Bob Wren and Bobby House would hold up their end of the bargain, Alexei Ponikarovsky is starting to develop the offensive touch many of the Leaf brass were waiting to see. Further, he hasn’t lost any of his grit doing so. Another name that has been getting mentioned is none other than Luca Cereda. While he has been buried on the depthchart for most of the year, with the injury situation he’s finally getting a chance to strut his stuff and he’s taking advantage of it. On the blueline Allan Rourke, who has been in and out and back in Coach Crawford’s doghouse this season is apparently out of it again and his play down the stretch has been reflecting that. Quite possibly his stint at forward earlier in the season has helped his defensive play. Another rearguard who has been getting good reviews is youngster Jay Harrison, who’s physical brand of defensive hockey has gotten him noticed.

With Anders Eriksson and Mikael Tellqvist being returned to the Baby Leafs and the additions of
Robb Palahnuk and Marty Clapton, the team will have strengthened their back end and filled out their forward rotation for the playoff run. There had been some concern as to whether Francois Bouchard or Petr Svoboda could step up in Eriksson’s absence but this is no longer a question. As for Tellqvist, with his arrival Mike Minard is once again the odd man out, a strong a signal as any as to which way the club is headed next season. Of the two newcomers Palahnuk has been the most impressive and at 22 is as legitimate of a longshot as Paul Healey. Clapton, on the other hand, looks to be short term playoff filler. At 28, his best is what were probably seeing now. All told, an interesting time to be a Toronto Maple Leaf fan. If your in the area and have a chance to see one of these games, by all means do so. It’s a good opportunity to take a sneak peak into the Blue and White’s future.

Kevin Kelly contributed to this report.