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апреля 2006 года
Forsaken Leaf Antropov gets late-year lift // "Toronto Star"
Post-Olympic play a boost to club
The Travelling Maple Leafs Resurrection Show goes under the big top at Bay and Lake Shore tomorrow night as one of the hottest acts in hockey.
After earning 12 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games, the Leafs could probably start peddling magical elixirs — a free bottle with each playoff ticket purchased — to gullible believers looking for a cure to baldness, gout and crappy hockey.
While this impressive surge has almost assuredly arrived too late to salvage the Leafs' flagging playoff hopes, it may have saved a few players' reputations. Or at least cast a new light on some seasons that were going awry.
Mats Sundin again looks dominant, his play mocking non-believers who wanted to dump him at the trade deadline. Jeff O'Neill has apparently rediscovered that going near the blue paint is actually a good thing, a relief to management considering Toronto is on the hook for another $1.5 million worth of dog kibble for his services next season. And who knew that Wade Belak really could play defence all along?
While much has been made of the evolution and improvement of the youngsters on the team, particularly the blueliners, easily unnoticed is the sudden growth and development of a player who has aged beyond the peach fuzz.
It's easy, even understandable, that Nik Antropov's recent improvement would be overlooked or perhaps even wilfully ignored. He teased so often in the past with unfulfilled potential, that it's easy to dismiss the lanky Kazakh as another failed first-round pick who will never live up to expectations.
Air Canada Centre announcements declaring Antropov a scratch from the lineup are generally met with scornful glee, giving a clear indication of the esteem in which the 10th overall pick from 1998 is held.
He tops the who's-gotta-go lists that inevitably surface as playoff hopes fade.
However, over the past three weeks, really since the Olympics, Antropov's play should encourage a rethinking of his tenuous status on the team. He no longer looks like he's breaking in a new pair of skates each time he takes to the ice. Playing alongside Mats Sundin — and of course that has a lot to do with it — Antropov has two goals and five assists in the last five games.
The line of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Sundin and Antropov — a threesome that averages 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds — has been able to establish a strong cycling game down low while displaying an attentiveness to defence that makes Antropov a plus-5 in those five games.
"He looks really assertive in his game now. He looks decisive," said coach Pat Quinn. "I always believed Nik had a good brain for the game. To me, that showed up right from the first time I saw him.
"Then he had injury after injury and I think that mentally he got snakebit and he wasn't an assertive guy. He was cautious."
As much as the fans are exasperated with Antropov's halting development, the 26-year-old feels the same frustration. It doesn't help that he's had his joints rebuilt more often than a Cabbagetown fixer-upper.
"The injuries have probably slowed down the process a lot but there's nothing I can do about that," he said. "After the Olympics I thought I picked up my game. The Olympics gave me a lot of confidence because I was playing for Kazakhstan in all kinds of situations. I had a lot of ice time, that's probably the main thing."
Though he's well aware of the frequent barbs levelled at him in this city, Antropov is hoping that his latest flash of potential is enough to keep him in Toronto's plans. He is an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
"It's all about hockey in this city and I'd love to stay here. But it's
not up to me."
23 сентября. Antropov ignores the boos // Toronto
17 сентября. The new Nik Antropov: No more Mr. Nice
Guy - Торонто Стар
14 января. Николай Антропов: "Нападающему моей комплекции
надо "жить" на пятачке!" - официальный сайт "Локомотива"
28 октября. "Ак Барс" подписал контракт с форвардом
"Торонто" Антроповым. // "Спорт-Эспресс"
15 апреля. Antropov needs to improve his game
- Canadian Press
6 февраля. Николай Антропов: Собираюсь стать канадцем
- Совесткий Спорт
14 января. Antropov shines again - Toronto Star
23 сентября. Antropov ignores the boos // Toronto Star
17 сентября. The new Nik Antropov: No more Mr. Nice Guy - Торонто Стар
14 января. Николай Антропов: "Нападающему моей комплекции надо "жить" на пятачке!" - официальный сайт "Локомотива"
28 октября. "Ак Барс" подписал контракт с форвардом "Торонто" Антроповым. // "Спорт-Эспресс"
15 апреля. Antropov needs to improve his game - Canadian Press
6 февраля. Николай Антропов: Собираюсь стать канадцем - Совесткий Спорт
14 января. Antropov shines again - Toronto Star