Bruins win

By now you know the story. The Toronto Maple Leafs surged out to a 4-1 lead against the Bruins in Boston in the third period of Game 7. Their stars had answered the bell in the biggest game of their young careers. Kessel from Kadri, Kadri from Kessel, the scoresheet showed Gardiner, it showed van Riemsdyk.

And then hockey happened. It all came undone.

For fans, a three-goal lead is enough to talk to one another comfortably. It’s enough to laugh, it’s enough to text, it’s enough for most people to get up and go pee and miss a minute of the game. But when the lead was cut to two by Nathan Horton with ten minutes left, it was time to quiet down and pay attention again. Too much time, not enough of a cushion. The stress-factor was reintroduced.

As someone who recently moved to Toronto, I loved the Nathan Horton goal from a playful teasing perspective. I haven’t endured the decades of suffering and real-life worst-case scenarios that so many Leaf-ites have, so I thought it was funny that it wasn’t going to be easy down the stretch for the team in blue. Even when Boston made it 4-3 with the goalie pulled and under 90 seconds left, in my mind it all just meant that it was going to feel that much better for Leafs fans. And before folks had time to contemplate the possibility of the whole ball of yarn unravelling, a cat in the form of Patrice Bergeron tore across the room, grabbed the string, and unfurled it in front of their eyes.

…Oh wow.

Sometimes hockey happens. Everything you do as a player on the ice is designed to increase your odds of success. There’s no guarantee that an Alex Ovechkin one-timer is going to go in, but it has better odds than a Mike Ribiero wrist shot, so you try to set up the former. “Throwing the puck on net” is no guarantee of success, but if you throw a screen in front of the goalie, you never know what might go in. Pulling the goalie is a good way to give up a goal, but dammit, you never know if that extra guy is going to make all the difference at the other end and help your team bang a puck in the net, so you pull your tender when you need a goal.

For the Leafs and Bruins last night, hockey just happened. Boston was in a situation where all they could do is maximize their odds of success and hope, and the odds gave way. A ten percent chance of rain doesn’t mean it isn’t going to rain, and at the right time at the biggest moment the heavens opened up and poured for Boston.

With Toronto in the hockey equivalent of football’s prevent defense, the Bruins tilted the ice like a jug of water and let James Reimer try to keep the spigot shut, and he simply couldn’t. There was no major technical flaw. There was no major personnel deficiency. It would be easier if the Leafs could wake up today and say “If only ____ had happened,” but they can’t after giving up four goals in 16 huge minutes of game play.

The Toronto Maple Leafs got swallowed by a moment, by the sheer fact that it’s not easy to score goals in hockey and they were up by three in the third and even the worst team in the league will hold on against the league’s best nine times out of 10 in that scenario. It just wasn’t supposed to play out for them this way, it couldn’t, until it did.

I liked last night’s game because it wasn’t a story that can’t really be told by numbers. The technical aspects seem to give way to the human element last night. Pressure mattered, clutch happened.

Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins stepped their game up when things got thick while the Leafs wilted, maybe because one team has been there before and felt it before. One team had been through the gut-wrenching post-season losses and felt the euphoria of succeeding before, while the other hadn’t. The flood of goals may have partially been luck, but the Bruins ability to tilt the ice when they needed it most seemed to come from experience. They rose up.

It was one hell of a hockey game. As much emotion as it stirred up here in Toronto, the Bruins rain washed most of it away overnight and left people in this city with one shared feeling: disbelief.

Comments (24)

  1. Wow. I didn’t get to see the game, but man, that’s a crazy turnaround!

  2. I wonder if Bruins fans feel this makes up for their 2010 collapse to the Flyers?

    • It doesn’t. It scars over like any other wound from when you tripped over your own feet; it doesn’t hurt anymore but you know the evidence it happened will be there, anytime you’re reminded of it. But given the choice between coughing up a 3 goal lead over the course of a game, and coughing up a 3 goal lead in the last ten minutes and losing in OT, I’ll take the first one.

    • Nope. 2011 made up for 2010.

    • Sweeping the Flyers on the way to winning the Cup did that….gave them that chip on their shoulder during that playoff run.

  3. FaceDownReimer.jpg is the new SadVokoun.gif

  4. As the third was ending I was asked, “can you please take the garbage out now?” But I said, “hold on. I have to listen to Don Cherry tell the Leafs that you have to cover the point.” So, yeah, maybe that’s what they’re saying today. Or maybe, “shit, it does make sense to go down and block a shot once in a while instead of letting the other guy take a wrist shot through traffic.”

  5. I was actually really annoyed by Damien Cox’ column in the Star this morning (I know, I know, sun comes up in the East….) He went on about how he can’t see the Leafs recovering from a collapse like this.

    I mean, this was a bit worse than the Kings’ collapse against the Sharks in 2011 (Game 7 as opposed to blowing a 5-0 lead in the playoffs, then losing in OT in the deciding game after failing to score on a five-minute major), but the Kings went on to win the Cup the next year after a devastating loss. The Oilers lost the Miracle on Manchester then went to the Cup final and won it a year later. Teams recover.

    • Damien Cox = national enquirer of sports followers. I refuse to call him a journalist because he has as much in common with a real journalist as I do with Crosby’s hockey skill.

    • Haven’t read the column, but that’s balderdash. The Bruins wouldn’t have won the Cup in 2011 without that loss in 2010. You learn from your failures, much more from your triumphs, and the Leafs are young. They’ll learn and move on.

  6. “With Toronto in the hockey equivalent of football’s prevent defense,”

    THIS. I know I’m a bit spoiled by seeing the way the Kings pressure teams on D, but… the Leafs played the last 2 minutes like they were killing a penalty. I hate when teams treat a pulled-goalie situation like that. The better way to treat it is to pressure the other team, because they have to always watch out for a turnover.

    • Thinking back on the last 10 minutes, I think it wasn’t so much a tactical issue as it was a matter of being gassed. Boston kept a relentless forecheck going and it can’t be easy pushing someone like Lucic off the front of the net. Through the TV, it’s easy to look at it and say they were doing the wrong things but it seems to me like they used up all their energy getting to 10:00 in the third in Game 7, and the tank was just about empty.

      • They actually appeared to have just given up altogether trying to move Lucic from in front of the net. Then when they put Chara in front the Leafs just cleared the way for him. Could see those last 2 regulation goals coming a mile away.

  7. As a leaf fan last night was obviously devastating. And it would have been better to just have been blown out from the start. But I really think the collapse didn’t happen until after the 4-3 goal. Until then they were playing pretty well. Obviously there was a lot of zone time for Boston, but what could you expect from them. They weren’t gonna lie down. But after that 3rd goal and the crowd going crazy. You could see on the leafs that they looked overwhelmed and they just crumbled under all the pressure. I guess that comes down to the inexperience. And how nice would it have been to win a face off down the stretch? Oh well. Was fun while it lasted.

  8. I agree with all the comments saying the Leafs should be proud and that Boston was destined. I understand the “game 7″ approach to officiating, but …I will stand up and argue with anyone that the “non-calls” approach to the refereeing was taken too far in this game 7 and the game result would have been different for sure with a few of the “missed” calls actually being called. I saw boarding, interference galore, punching (roughing), spearing, slashing and tripping (yes even the goalie was tripped and no call). Of these missed calls, Toronto would have benefitted from 75% of them, maybe more. Yes I am sore that my team lost, but the league allowing this has turned me off of watching any more games. I am seriously considering not tuning next year either. Its got way out of hand. The league will suffer a drop in “willing to watch or attend” fans (other than me), if this is not nipped in the bud. Wake up NHL and maintain a quality product on the ice.

    • 100% agree, Leafs blew it but it was a free for all in the 3rd, how does not 1 fuckin official see JVR get elbowed?!? I still do not comprehend why the NHL rules change in the playoffs. it doesn’t happen in any other league, pass interference is the same in the 1st quarter as it is in OT of the super bowl. does not help with the easing process

      • “pass interference is the same in the 1st quarter as it is in OT of the super bowl. does not help with the easing process”

        Tell that to Miami Hurricanes fans who saw the greatest college football team ever get robbed in the national championship game against Ohio State on a pass interference call that the refs refused to call.

        (Or if you ever want to waste two hours, ask Seahawks fans about the refs in the Super Bowl they lost to the Steelers a few years back. They’re more bitter about that than Leafs fans are about the Gretzky incedent from 1993)

    • 100% agree, Leafs blew it but it was a free for all in the 3rd, how does not 1 fuckin official see JVR get elbowed?!? I still do not comprehend why the NHL rules change in the playoffs. it doesn’t happen in any other league, pass interference is the same in the 1st quarter as it is in OT of the super bowl. does not help with the easing process

      • Maybe if JVR hadn’t embellished multiple times earlier in the series maybe it would have been called. But on multiple occasions he grabbed for his head despite no contact to his head in order to trick the refs into calling a penalty.

        • Exactly JvR was gaining a huge reputation for his dives this series. And the NHL assigns operations directors to each series to act as a go between for coaches/refs/owners during the series undoubtedly was getting a mouthful about the Leafs diving (and Bruins cheating on faceoffs). But lets take the blue glasses off. The Bruins were tripped and interfered so many times during the last few minutes of the game with no call. The Leafs collapsed and that is the only reason they lost.

    • I agree about the poor officiating and that too much went uncalled. The linesmen even F’d up an icing or two, one in particular that screwed the Leafs.
      However, the Leafs were allowed endless interference and stick obstruction while defending a three goal lead in the third period. To say that 75% of the missed calls would have benefited the Leafs is really seeing through blue glasses. Boston should have been on the PP for the last 12 minutes of the game, clearly they just played through the missed calls and gutted out a victory.. Using the refs as crutch is hard to pass up when your team loses, but the Leafs were far from the victim you make them out to be aside from the icing and a hit from behind on Lucic which would be impossible to call after watching him skate around with white jerseys draped over him for the ten minutes before it happened.

  9. Cover. The. Point. : How? How? HOWWW do you allow a team that has Proven over and over again that they are going to the D, to…um…GO TO THE D! Ok Fine, you’ll take your chances and keep your guys down low…then why were there 3 Bruins in front of the Net on Goals 3 & 4 and NO LEAFS!
    Im happy the Leafs were back in it. I was even surprised to see us in game 7, and I was shocked to be up 3 with 10 to go… but this was on the coach. Yes the refs were not going to call even the most flagrant of penalties on Boston – and boy did they let the Bruins get away with Murder – but to fall back on your heals, swing your sticks, and literally watch the opponent skate and dump like it was a drill in practice is inexcusable at any level, much less the Show. Horrible.

    • lol. I just noticed the picture above. 3 Bruins in front of the Net and the only Leaf with 10 feet? Reimer. What a joke. What a choke.

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