BY: Jeff Schneberk
When the eastern conference quarter finals began on May 1 in Boston, the Toronto Maple Leafs went into it as the biggest underdogs. When they finished it, they became the biggest idiots.
As the NHL’s 5th place club, they were paired off with the conference’s 5th place club, so it shouldn’t have been too hard a battle to fight. Toronto dropped the opener, 4-1, then won the next game, 4-2, then lost the next 2 games to put themselves in position to be eliminated. Then they rang off back-to-back victories to set up a Game 7.
There is a saying that everyone makes mistakes but this game goes far beyond that. One of the Leafs forwards, Joffrey Lupul apparently said to the media that this particular game will probably haunt them all for the rest of their lives. For most people that sounds like he’s overdoing it I bit; to most of LeafsNation, that just might sum it up pretty good. Especially the 2,000+ fans that gathered that night at Maple Leaf Square.
Had the Leafs advanced, they would have drawn the New York Rangers in the second round which is still underway as of the writing of this blog. Who knows what could have happened in a Leafs/Rangers series. The crazy superstitions likely would have gone on for at least another 4 games. What on earth happened to that team that night?
For most of the previous 6 meetings, every player in blue and white gave it their all, especially when they found themselves trailing at some point, and for the most part the scores were close, 2 games went into overtime, one game was 4-1 another was 4-2, a third was 5-2 so at least 3 games finished as one-goal results, but when NHL hockey goes to Game 7 none of that matters. What mattered was the Leafs were up 3 goals in a game that most of the ‘experts’ insisted they had no business whatsoever even being in.
Toronto vs Boston was predicted to go 6 games at the most by those ‘experts’ at the CBC and not one person from www.espn.com, gave them any credit either. And when you get to a Game 7 situation, everybody knows, anything can happen.
It was a very interesting sight to see Boston fans getting up to leave the arena when their team was trailing 4-1 with about 7:24 remaining in regulation, you could just see the Bruins falling apart.
Then shortly afterwards, someone scores to make it 4-2. Leafs fans all over the world begin to enter into that “oh #$%” mode. You knew that something bad was about to happen. Then it did happen (4-3 Leafs) and then it got even worse. Tie game (4-4) with under a minute remaining.
The only thing that the Leafs didn’t manage to do was help bring this comeback on themselves (scoring a goal on their own net or taking a major penalty for something completely uncalled for).
The way they were starting to fall apart, it’s the only other thing that could make blowing a lead like that in such short time, actually make sense. The goaltender, James Reimer, who was a brick wall for most of the previous 6 games, picked the worse 7:24 to let everything get by him.
His defence was no help either. Nobody took anybody, and against an experienced team like Boston, that was bad. Through the regular season, Randy Carlyle had developed a system that when a player (s) was not playing in a way that would help the team win, he would sit them for a game or two.
That’s what happened to Jay McClement during the opening 4 games of the series. He didn’t play well (enough). Carlyle benched him. He came back the night Boston won the first overtime game; McClement got the goal that tied the game at 3-3, beating Tuuka Rask 5-hole which sent the game into overtime. After the travesty of Game 7, Carlyle should bench the entire team! Then someone should bench him.
The other worst part about this game was that you can’t recover from it. It will go down in history as one of the worst ways to ever lose in such an important hockey game. For more hockey playoff ramble, follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Game7overtime