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TORONTO – It took less than a week for life to sour for the Maple Leafs. Six days after rallying for perhaps their finest win of the season in the sunshine of L.A. – and second in the challenging California triangle – did they drop their third straight game Wednesday, sullied by the hat trick of Steven Stamkos in what proved a dour night at the ACC. "Obviously we havent played as well as we need to," said head coach Randy Carlyle following the 5-3 defeat. "And were not sitting here saying that were playing the type of hockey that is required to have success. Is it a trend? Well we lost three games in a row. If we show the desperation that we displayed in the last half of the game for 60 minutes we surely could improve our chances, thats for sure." With the loss – their fourth in the past five games – Toronto fell three points back of Tampa for second spot in the Atlantic with another key division match looming on Saturday with Montreal in town. Once in fine shape to make it back to the playoffs for a second straight spring, the Leafs are skidding at the wrong time and hurting those chances. They still hold the first wild card position (80 points), but have ceded ground to the Blue Jackets (76 points), Capitals (76), and Red Wings (75) – all have games in hand – also failing to keep pace with the Lightning (83) and Canadiens (83). Still struggling to defend, the Leafs have not had the brilliance of Jonathan Bernier to lean on during this recent three-game slide, nor have they been able to outscore opponents on the strength of their top line, a source of success in many victories this season. With 11 games still remaining they certainly have time to veer back in the right direction. "No sense in panicking," concluded James Reimer following the latest loss. Yielding the first goal for the fifth consecutive game on this night, the Leafs started sluggishly in their first game back from a lengthy five-game road trip, running around in the defensive zone. By the end of 20 minutes they were down 3-2 on a pair from Stamkos, also reeling from the scary loss of Paul Ranger (more on that in Five Points). "Weve had a trend over the last three games where we seem like were starting a little sluggish," said Mason Raymond afterward. "Were not getting the exact start that were wanting. I think later in the game we showed that desperation, but we need that for 60 minutes." Peppering 22 shots at Ben Bishop in the final frame – even pulling to within one on another goal from Jake Gardiner – Toronto made a late push, but like recent comeback efforts in Washington and Detroit, they ultimately fell short. Unhappy with a schedule that saw his team return from 10 days on the road only to host Tampa on the second end of a back-to-back – they lost to the Red Wings on Tuesday – Carlyle felt fatigue was an issue. "Its not an excuse," he said. "But its a trying situation. Its not easy. And you could definitely tell that they had more jump than we did, specifically at the beginning. But we started to play a lot more desperate and we showed that we have more in the tank. Its just that we had to run on some emotion. We didnt have that emotion in the first half of the game and we developed it in the second half of the game and thats the positive part." Five Points 1. Reimers Response Reimer returned to the net less than 24 hours after his performance in Detroit was criticized by Carlyle. His night started just as poorly as the night previous had ended, with Radko Gudas sailing a point shot through a maze of traffic and beyond the surprised 26-year-old. "I just didnt see the puck," said Reimer afterward. "Its a crappy way to start the game." Rarely looking comfortable, though not helped at times by his support staff, Reimer yielded five at the end of the evening on just 30 shots. He owns a .901 save percentage in his last five appearances, all coming consecutively in the past week. "Just like the rest of our team," said Carlyle, noticeably bothered by the swell of attention his comments the previous evening received. "I get in trouble when I comment about goalies with [the media]." "First thing I just wanted to come out and play well and be a difference-maker and unfortunately it wasnt the case," said Reimer. "I felt I made some good saves, but definitely wasnt the performance I was looking for. I wanted to come out and be big, keep your team in it. It just didnt happen tonight." Bothered by a groin injury, Bernier took to the ice Wednesday morning for the first time since he exited a long-awaited return to the Staples Center last week. He was expected to skate again in full equipment again on Friday with his status for a weekend back-to-back still in doubt. 2. Scary Incident Only 4.1 seconds remained in the first when Ranger was hammered from behind by Lightning forward Alex Killorn. Reversing to his left at the very last second, the 29-year-old was caught by the elbow of Killorn as he was slammed into the glass. "He was in a tough spot," said Tim Gleason, who rushed in to confront Killorn afterward. "He was facing the glass I think most of the way in. I think a little extra bump and thats all it takes. It almost looks harmless but its not." A hush encompassing the entire arena, Ranger remained down on the ice for quite a while, surrounded by concerned teammates and the teams medical staff. He was eventually helped off the ice on a stretcher, the intermission beginning with time still left on the clock and the Leafs left to wonder about the health of their fallen teammate. "Thats scary," said Joffrey Lupul of the incident, Killorn receiving a five-minute major and game misconduct. "Thats one of your teammates, your friends, a guy you see everyday. It didnt look great when he was leaving the ice. Youre trying to clear your head and focus on the next period, but you cant lie, obviously part of you is wondering whats going on with him." Ranger was taken to a local hospital and, according to the team, was "stable, conscious and alert". 3. Stamkos Dominates With the hat trick Wednesday, Stamkos now has 13 goals and 25 points in 20 career games against his hometown team. Seven games back into his comeback from a broken tibia, he scored his first of the night on a power-play – David Clarkson in the box – lost back-door by Gleason and the Toronto penalty kill. He added a second marker less than three minutes later, just a step ahead of Dion Phaneuf for position in front of Reimer. The Lightning captain completed the trifecta early in the middle frame. Capitalizing on a failed clearing attempt by Lupul, Stamkos beat his counterpart to an Eric Brewer rebound, banging it past Reimer for the fourth Tampa goal. "We had five guys around the puck," said Carlyle of the marker, which made it 4-2 for the Lightning. "We had five people in position, but we were coasting and we were watching." "Were just getting exposed," added Lupul. "The area in which Stamkos scored his goals, you dont want to give anybody, specifically anybody of that skill-set, that kind of space in that area," Carlyle concluded. 4. Reimer II His future almost certainly resting outside of Toronto, Reimer made no secret of his troubles and tribulations this season, relegated to backup duty. "Its been a really big test of character," he said. "Learnt a lot about perseverance, endurance, and fighting through adversity. Really hasnt gone the way Id hoped. I havent played, I dont think, up to my capability for the last little while. Its tough. Its not for lack of effort, not for lack of passion or desire. But things just arent clicking. Im working hard, trying to stay positive, believing in myself and I fully believe that things will turn around." 5. Depth Scoring Offensive depth for the Leafs has gone almost completely quiet. Lupul and one-time linemate Nazem Kadri – they were split against the Lightning – have just two apiece in the past 14 games. David Clarkson has totaled just four all season and one in the past 23 games. Nik Kulemin scored Wednesday for just the second time in the past 18. Peter Holland has gone 20 straight without a single marker, potting just one point in that span. And Jay McClement, a source of eight goals in 48 games a year ago, has just three in 70 games. All of which has upped the pressure on the teams top line to produce, their failure to do so often meaning defeat. Phil Kessel snapped a four-game goal drought with his 35th of the year against the Lightning and though dangerous, his line was held off the scoresheet otherwise. Toronto forwards have just seven goals in the past six games, carried by the defence which has eight, including four from Gardiner. Stats-Pack 5 – Consecutive games in which Toronto has allowed the first goal. 2-1-0 – Leafs record against the Lightning this season. 7 – Goals from the Toronto forward group in the past six games. 14 – Number of times the Leafs have outshot their opposition this season, including a 39-30 advantage on Wednesday. 22:39 – Ice-time for James van Riemsdyk against the Lightning, leading the team. 7 – Consecutive games with a goal for the Leafs defence. 5 – Goals from Jake Gardiner in the past seven games. 20 – Consecutive games without a goal Peter Holland. 2 – Goals for Nik Kulemin in the past 18 games. Kulemin scored his ninth of the year against Tampa. Special Teams Capsule PP: 0-3Season: 20.4 per cent (7th) PK: 3-5Season: 78.3 per cent (28th) Quote of the Night "Just like the rest of our team. I get in trouble when I comment about goalies with [the media]. I could say yes and no from here on in, but I dont think that would be fair would it?" -Randy Carlyle, asked about the performance of James Reimer on Wednesday night. Up Next The Leafs host the Canadiens Saturday in another key division clash. DeShawn Shead Lions Jersey . With the results, North America claimed 2.5 of the three available points, opening up a 17.5-12.5 lead in the overall standings. A total of 60 points are available, meaning the first team to 30.5 points will win the Continental Cup. Tracy Walker Lions Jersey .J. -- Kyle Palmieri thrilled his personal rooting section with an overtime winner that sent the Anaheim Ducks to their seventh straight win. http://www.lionsfanspro.com/Black-Kerryo...mmissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday it is inevitable that the league will one day take after European sports and have sponsor names on team jerseys. Devon Kennard Jersey . Leaning forward with both hands on his knees, Buffon appeared to be resting or somehow trying to withstand the rain. Or perhaps the 36-year-old goalkeeper and Italy captain was reflecting on this: He is only the third player in history to be part of five World Cup squads, along with Germany great Lothar Matthaus and former Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal. Christian Jones Jersey . - First-timer Chris Harris Jr.Some days - not too many, thankfully - I feel like it sucks to get old. Or, more precisely, it sucks to watch great hockey people you admire and respect grow old. Friday was one of those days. Thats when the family of 74-year-old Stan Mikita announced the Hall of Fame Chicago Blackhawk centre and beloved franchise ambassador is facing serious health issues, that he has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy Body dementia, a progressive disease and is currently under the care of compassionate and understanding care givers. On the same day as that most unwelcome Mikita news, blogger Howard Berger (bergerbytes.ca) posted a current photograph of 82-year-old former NHL defenceman and Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour, updating his condition (dementia and Parkinsons Disease) and inviting fans to send best wishes to Arbour at his retirement home in Florida. Arbours health issues were widely reported in the media last summer - it isnt necessarily news hes now suffering dementia - but whats that they say about one picture being worth a thousand words? That the failing health of these two Hall of Famers intersected, sadly, on the same day only added to the magnitude of the misfortune. At least it did for a kid who spent his formative Original Six hockey years growing up in Toronto in the 1960s, admiring the two men for very different reasons. *** I loved Stan Mikitas hockey stick before I came to fully appreciate him as a hockey player. Bobby Hulls too. The two Blackhawk stars were, of course, the most famous originators of the curved stick in hockey. I dont want to say you had to be there in the 1960s to truly comprehend the impact of that phenomenon on the game but, really, you had to be there. My friends and I were totally enthralled and captivated by it. You had to see a Mikita or Hull curved blade to believe it. Not for nothing were they called banana blades, more boomerang than blade. Perhaps not coincidentally, (then hockey equipment manufacturer) Cooper came out with what was known as the Super Blade, a plastic road hockey blade that could be affixed to a wooden stick shaft. The beauty of the Super Blade (aside from the fact it was more or less indestructible and ran more smoothly than wood over asphalt) was you could curve it as much, or as little, as you liked. Right or left, it didnt matter. My friends and I preferred a lot over a little, thanks to Mikita and Hull. You had to heat the blade over a stove top to curve it. My Mom always feared I would burn down the house while curving my Super Blade, but, truth be told, boiling the water to mold my Cooper Adanac inside-the-mouth mouth guard for real hockey was far more dangerous, but thats another story. We all wanted to be Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull when we played road hockey, the ultimate compliment coming from kids raised on Punch Imlachs Maple Leafs. If it wasnt too cold out, you could take your Super Blade and add extra curve to it by sticking it in the sewer grate and bend it to absurd proportions. Mikita and Hull, of course, were so much more than their curved sticks. Hull was The Golden Jet, along with Gordie Howe, the biggest name(s) in the game. Mikita, as much as he was a star, was also complex and contradictory, so many things to so many people. My Dad often referred to Mikita as a, dirty S.O.B. And, for a time, he was. In his first six years in the NHL, Mikita had 100 or more penalty minutes in each of four seasons (154 was his personal best or is it worst?), 97 in one of the two years he didnt hit the century mark. Stosh, as he was known, was mean, not afraid to use his stick for more than scoring goals. No one ever doubted his skill and offensive ability – in his second NHL season he played a significant role in the Hawks 1961 Stanley Cup victory and was legitimate star who won four NHL scoring titles in a five year stretch between 1963 and 1968 - but Mikita was often one nasty bit of business. If the advent of the curved stick revolutionized the game on one level, Mikita effected what had to be one of the most remarkable individual transformations in the history of hockey on another. So, in back-to-back seasons (1966-67 and 1967-68), Mikita not only won the Art Ross Trophy as NHL leading scorer and Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, but he also won the Lady Byng Trophy as the leagues most gentlemanly and sportsmanlike player. It was a stunning reversal. Two scoring titles, two MVPs, two most gentlemanly player awards, with penalty minute totals of 12 and 14, in two years after being one of the NHLs most notorious bad boys and stick men. He remains the only NHL player to win those three trophies in the same season, and he did it twice. Mikita was a special player. Only a special person could re-define himself the way he did. If I went to my uncles house on a Saturday night, when the Hawks were playing the Leafs, Mikita was a revered figure there. My uncle married into a Polish family, and though Mikita was born in Czechoslovakia (he moved to Canada when he was eight), that was close enough for fellow Eastern Europeans to identify with. They loved him. We knew from Mikitas hockey card that his original name was Stanislav Gouth, born in Czechoslovakia (Slovakia actually). He was raised in St. Catharines, Ont., by his aunt and uncle and took their last name - Mikita. By any name, he was extraordinary. His innovating ways didnt end with the curved stick. Mikita was reportedly knocked unconscious by New York Ranger defenceman Rod Seiling in a 1968 playoff game. According to accounts, Mikita left the game for a few minutes and came back to lead his team to victory. He subsequently helped to design and wore what became known as his trademark bulbous Stan Mikita model helmet, one of the first NHL veterans to opt for protective headgear. Al Arbour, meanwhile, could not have been more different than Mikita. He wasnt an offensive star; he wasnt a star at all. He was a defensive defenceman who had to battle just to hang on in the NHL. Funny enough, and I didnt know this until now, Mikita and Arbour were teammates on the Cup-winning 1961 Hawks. For the better part of the 60s, between 1962 and 1967, Arbour was more an American Leaguer with the Rochester Americans than he was a Maple Leaf. That, I always knew. A kid growing up in Toronto in the 1960s knew em all, the Leafs and the wannabe Leafs in Rochester. The Amerks even played some games at Maple Leaf Gardens and Id go to watch them there. Then there was Arbours hockey card. My friends and I were fascinated by it. We loved that Arbours name was, in fact, Alger, but more importantly, that he wore glasses, both in the photo in his hockey card and on the ice. That alone distinguished him from every other hockey player. As such, we reserved a special sort of attention for this Alger Arbour fellow. Then expansion came in 1967 and he was off to St. Louis to become captain of the Blues and, ultimately, to make a far greater impact as a coach than a player. *** That kid in Toronto never would have imagined growing up one day to work in the hockey business, getting up close and personal with the faces and people he had only ever saw on TV or on a hockey card. That experience can be a double-edged sword because thats when you find out some of your childhood heroes or hockey stars may not be exactly who you thought they were. Suffice to say that never happened with Stan Mikita or Al Arbour. Post rettirement - chronic back woes forced Mikita to call it quits during the 1979-80 season -- any occasion I came across Mikita, he was so cool and charismatic.dddddddddddd He had a regal air about him. He was the nattiest of dressers, a real sharp-dressed man. When Bobby Hull and Mikita were at functions together, Bobby could be ribald and crass, Stan would be smooth as silk and all class, though you knew he still, in a very good way, had a little bit of the devil in him, too. When the new regime of the Blackhawks finally welcomed their superstars – chiefly Hull and Mikita – back into the fold after decades of neglecting them, Stan the Man took his ambassadorship to heart and assumed, quite rightfully, exalted status within the organization. Hes a veritable icon in Chicago and has the statue outside the United Centre to prove it. By the time I started covering the NHL in 1982, the still bespectacled Arbour was in the midst of coaching the four-Cup dynasty of the New York Islanders and well on his way to becoming a legendary bench boss, who even today is second only to Scotty Bowman in career wins. He was always patient and caring and friendly with inquisitors and for a young media guy breaking into the business that was appreciated more than he would ever know. Arbour and his boss, Islander general manager Bill Torrey, were great at their jobs. At their very core, though, you could tell they were just good people. Als players loved him. Over the years, when I would work in TV with former Islanders, first Glenn Healy and now Ray Ferraro, they would always speak so lovingly of him. They had great insights into him as a coach and wonderful, funny stories of him as a man, which made him all the more endearing. Their respect, admiration and affection for him came off them in waves. *** Diseases that attack the brain are insidious things. I know this only too well. My maternal grandfathers quality of life - and ultimately his actual life - were taken by a degenerative neurological disorder that eventually robbed him of his ability to walk, talk and engage in any semblance of coordination. My Dad died of brain cancer, a tumour. It was astonishing how quickly after he was diagnosed that he was robbed of his faculties. Intellectually, mentally, he was long gone before the cancer claimed his physical life. It isnt pretty watching someone go down that road, whether its cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, dementia, Lewy Body or otherwise, and who knows what other neurological time bombs that may be out there. Im sure many of you know that only too well from your personal experience, just as the loved ones and friends of Stan Mikita and Al Arbour are dealing with it now. The same goes for the Gordie Howe and his family, who have been dealing with Mr. Hockeys dementia for years, quite aside from his recent health scares involving stroke(s). As much as I can relate to that, Im also a journalist, curious by nature, and as sad and empathetic as I was with Fridays news, I must admit I also wondered if there might be any connection between the brain diseases afflicting Mikita and Arbour (Howe, too) and having played professional hockey, possibly suffering brain trauma along the way. I am not a doctor, too dumb to have even considered the notion. I also know millions are afflicted with dementia or Alzheimers or Parkinsons and most of them never played so much as a game of hockey or football or anything that caused repetitive brain trauma. These things often just seem to happen, especially with those in their seventies and eighties. Maybe thats simply the case here. We dont know; were not likely to ever know. Still, that doesnt stop me from wondering. We cant ignore the reality of what has gone on in sports and medicine in the last 10 years, especially in the National Football League: all the research that has been done by forensic pathologist Bennett Olamu, Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, and Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon, as well as so many others who have linked, in varying degrees, repetitive head trauma in football, boxing, wrestling, hockey and other contact sports, to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease that, for now anyway, can only be definitively diagnosed after the patient has died. If you havent read the book, League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth, by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, you really should. It chronicles not only the NFLs reticence to deal with the head trauma/CTE issue but the in-fighting amongst medical practitioners to be at the forefront of the movement. Its a fascinating read, a subject that isnt going away. Mostly, though, the book specifies the tragic lives and deaths of football players with CTE who were afflicted with a wide range of early onset neurological disorders that quite likely contributed to their deaths. Medical evidence isnt as plentiful, at least not yet anyway, in hockey as it has been in football, but Dr. McKees work with the Boston University brain bank – where the brains of deceased athletes are studied for CTE – has yielded connections between deceased NHLers and CTE. Original Six tough guy/enforcer Reggie Fleming had a long history of behavioral and cognitive issues. After his death in 2009, at the age of 73, his post-mortem brain examination confirmed the presence of CTE. Similar autopsies on ex-Buffalo Sabre star Richard Martin, who died of a heart attack at age 59 with no apparent or overt neurological disorders, and legendary NHL tough guy Bob Probert, who died in 2010 at age 45 of an apparent heart attack, also confirmed the presence of CTE. Most recently, a brain autopsy on NHL tough guy Derek Boogaard, who died at age 28 in 2011 from what was deemed to be an accidental death (mixing alcohol and oxycodone), also revealed CTE. In the wake of that, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was quoted as follows: There isnt a lot of data, and the experts who we talked to, who consult with us, think that its way premature to be drawing any conclusions. Fair enough. Its a serious issue and it deserves to be treated seriously, with empirical data and hard evidence. Time will tell how it all plays out for hockey. But as someone whos been around this game for the better part of my life – recognizing I certainly have none of that hard evidence or empirical data -- I do sometimes get a terrible sense of foreboding, that as the speed of the game has dramatically increased every decade since the 1960s, both the quality and quantity of impact to the players brains have increased, too. Perhaps were only looking at the tip of a very large iceberg in hockey. I know some retired NHL players who played in the 1980s and 1990s who estimate theyve suffered 10 to 15 concussions, experiencing all manner of symptoms and issues. Ive talked to these players; Ive worked alongside some of them in television. I wont lie. I fear for them and hope beyond all hope my fears are unfounded, that hockeys terrible day of reckoning on head trauma exists more in my mind than reality. In the meantime, me wondering about the possible causes of Stan Mikitas and Al Arbours neurological afflictions, as well as where brain trauma in hockey may be headed, doesnt alter my feelings from Friday in any way: that is, the sadness and empathy I have for two marvelous hockey men I so admired when I was a kid. 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