Toronto Maple Leafs Practice: A Glass Case of Emotion

Maple Leafs back up goalie Curtis McElhinney confirms he'll make the start Tuesday against Florida, in what he says is the biggest start of his career to date.

After what Toronto Maple Leafs fans have gone through over their lives, you can forgive them for being a little jumpy.

Maple Leafs practice on Monday was an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions. Allow me to take you on a minute-by-minute journey of Leafs practice on Monday, March 27, 2017.

10:02 a.m. – ANDERSEN APPEARS

This was the Leafs’ starting netminder’s first appearance on the ice since leaving Saturday night’s tilt against the Buffalo Sabres due to an “upper-body injury.”

10:04 a.m. – VIDEO PROOF!

10:14am – ANDERSEN JAW INJURY?
Dave Feschuk reports that Andersen’s injury is supposedly a jaw issue.

10:21 am.. – A GOOD SIGN?

Not only is Freddy Andersen on the ice but his warmup is “typical” which probably means he’s fine, right?

10:22 a.m. – ANDERSEN SHOULDER INJURY?

While CJ is posting video to Twitter, a write-up of his about Andersen’s presence is posted in real time on this very website. The most important detail within this, after reading Feschuk’s assertion of a jaw injury, is CJ’s observation that Paul Ayotte, the Leafs’ head athletic therapist, was seen working on Andersen’s right shoulder.

As mentioned in the article, which I highly recommend you read instead of my summary of it, goes on to mention Andersen’s injury history, including his shoulder problem from this past September.

10:29 a.m. – ANDERSEN LEAVES
What? Where are you going? FREDDY COME BACK!!!

10:30 a.m. – SPARKS APPEARS

This is a big one. Andersen left the ice as Leafs backup goalie Curtis McElhinney arrived. Who was the goalie the Leafs would use to replace Andersen at practice? None other than Garret Sparks.

The fan reaction was all over the place.

There’s the “Sparks should start ahead of McElhinney” crowd.

Polite congratulations.

The “over-the-top optimistic” crowd.

And, of course, the “the world is burning” crowd.

10:39 a.m. – THE FANS HAVE SPOKEN

A super-official poll suggests 69% of fans would rather see Sparks start on Tuesday instead of McElhinney.

10:44 a.m. – SPARKS PHOTO
Photo evidence of Sparks.

10:46 a.m. – KAPANEN APPEARS

With many Leafs fans wallowing at the prospect of a McElhinney-Sparks tandem in the absence of Andersen, misery quickly turned to euphoria at the news that at long last, Kasperi Kapanen has been recalled.

Elation ensues.

I got a little bit excited, too.

10:53 a.m. – KAPANEN IS GOOD

Michael Augello points out that Kapanen is a point-per-game player in the AHL, as a 20-year-old no less, and theorizes that the Leafs would have called on him sooner were it not for a serious lower-body injury earlier this season.

10:56 a.m. – ANDERSEN RETURNS

“BAH GAWD THAT’S FREDDY’S MUSIC!!! THE GREAT DANE HAS RETURNED!”

11:01 a.m. – SERIOUSLY, ANDERSEN HAS RETURNED

11:03 a.m. – KAPANEN & SPARKS RECALLED

The Leafs formally announce that both Kasperi Kapanen and Garret Sparks have been recalled from the Toronto Marlies.

11:09 a.m. – ANDERSEN PRACTICING
This is the only thing fans care about – can Freddy go or not? With Andersen taking on a “full role” in practice and Garret Sparks appearing to be the odd goalie out, the Leafs’ game against the Panthers could be a regular Andersen-McElhinney tandem.

11:18 a.m. – ANDERSEN LEAVES… AGAIN
So Freddy appears, has an early practice, disappears, reappears, then leaves early, destroying the cardiovascular health of millions throughout the Greater Toronto Area and the world rotating around it.

11:53 a.m. – WILLIAM DENTISTRYLANDER

William Nylander’s modelling career in jeopardy? Can modern dentistry help him recover? Will Don Cherry give him a shout-out for “looking like a hockey player” on Saturday night? Stay tuned.

11:55 a.m. – NYLANDER REMINDER

11:57 a.m. – MCELHINNEY STARTS vs. PANTHERS

McElhinney is officially named the Leafs’ starter against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

12:04 p.m. – GOALIE BEN SMITH?

You can never be too sure.

12:07 p.m. – KAPANEN WILL PLAY
Kasperi Kapanen is officially in the Leafs’ lineup tomorrow against Florida. By my count, Kapanen will be the fifth Leaf to play right wing on the Leafs’ fourth line in the last five games. That’s a span of nine days.

12:15 p.m. – KAPANEN EXPECTATIONS LOW

Alrighty then.

12:18 p.m. – ANDERSEN SPEAKS

What does “a little bit off” qualify as? Upper body? Lower body? General body soreness?

12:20 p.m. – ANDERSEN SAYS NOTHING

The Leafs may not have a playoff spot locked down just yet but their super-vague injury reports are already in playoff form.

12:31 p.m. – BABCOCK ALSO SAYS NOTHING

12:44 p.m. – WILLY’S TOOTH STILL

Pressbox popcorn is kind of a punishment, right?

12:50 p.m. – THAT’S ENOUGH, STEVE

I think we’re finally done here.

Leafs fans rejoiced, cried, rejoiced again, and cried a little bit again all in the span of about an hour or two. The Leafs have just eight games remaining in the regular season and there’s no telling how many fans will make it there and how many will spontaneously combust.

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