Candidly, I don’t exactly know how to write or format this article. The thought of the Leafs losing in the first round to a Montreal Canadiens team that finished 18 points behind them in the regular season didn’t really cross my mind, let alone losing after being up 3-1 in the series. In hindsight, it makes me seem incredibly un-intelligent to have thought the Leafs would win, well, anything. Maybe I didn’t want to believe they could lose this series because it truly would be one of my worst nightmares, or perhaps I was actually convinced they’d changed; either way, I was wrong to doubt the Leafs’ exceptional, uncanny talent of failing every single time.
It’s not unbelievable, or stunning, or shocking that the Leafs lost as many have said over the past few hours; it’s anything but. If you thought about it rationally, it would’ve been more preposterous, more inconceivable to see the Leafs win game 7.
I’m not going to get all mad in this article. I can’t; I have no energy left to do so. I’ve reached the stage of indifference. This team has made that happen. They deserved to be laughed at, made fun of, ridiculed, all of it. Their performances merit it all, as long as no one is crossing the line, of course.
We all will ask the question of how? How is it possible to keep doing the same thing over and over without anything ever changing? How do you score 1 goal or less in 3 straight win or go home games? How do you continue to let down a fanbase that is one of the most passionate there is? A fanbase that actually cares, one that lives and dies with every little thing that happens to the team. How? There is no answer other than maybe a curse. I mean, at this point, how could you definitively rule it out? We are quite literally at the point where an acceptable answer to each of those questions is simply “Because it’s the Leafs.”
Looking at the game in a vacuum, it was representative of the past 5 years of this organization, which I guess isn’t really looking at the game in a vacuum, but I digress. When it really mattered, they lacked energy, spirit, and any sense of purpose. They were quite simply outplayed. They generated next to nothing until they were down a goal, and then, predictably, they decided they wanted to play hockey, but it was too late. The Habs had already built up their protective wall, and once it was 2-0, the game was practically over.
Look, I need to say this, the Leafs didn’t lose tonight because of the officials, but that may have been the worst refereed game I’ve ever seen. There is “letting them play,” and then there is not calling egregious breaking of the rules.
This was not called
#TheArtofReffing. Clearly, both are penalties, but the lack of consistency is astounding, and it’s been like this all playoffs in every series! The NHL has to do better.
Anyways, despite all of what I just said, the Leafs still could’ve won tonight; even with how poor they were, the game was still there for the taking. But it never looked like they wanted to step up and take it. It was almost repulsing to watch like you just wanted to change the channel, but you knew you couldn’t. They have made us think that there is hope of a comeback, that they might do the ultimate 180 and turn around the franchise’s fortunes forever. But, again, only a fool would believe such a thing, and sadly, I think being a fool is a prerequisite to becoming a Leaf fan.
I thought game 5 in 2019 was the turning point for this group, it wasn’t. I was convinced that the game 4, 3 goal, 3rd-period comeback last year would finally catapult the team to great success, it didn’t. Then came this year and a division title and looking dominant all season in winning that title. And yet, here we are again, left with the ice cream melting in our hands. Feeling stupid, feeling embarrassed, feeling betrayed. Somehow, someway, we will all be back next October, assuring ourselves that the new additions to the roster are the fresh breath of air that will be needed to finally get over the hump. “Look at the Capitals or the Lightning, or the Blues,” we’ll say, ignoring the fact that those teams aren’t saddled with the reputation of being the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I cannot even think about the offseason right now, but I will have something out in the next couple of weeks, looking at what’s on deck for this organization. I also would like to say If you’re finding yourself blaming the general manager or head coach for the latest edition of an 18 wheeler going off a cliff, stop, stop right now.
We cannot keep letting the players off the hook. They don’t deserve excuses; they don’t deserve justifications for their failure. Be mad, be upset, be sulky for the next couple of days, weeks even. You have every right to be. But don’t let this hockey team rule your happiness. It’s just hockey, after all.
Math is stupid folks, and don’t forget it.