Tonight's game was obviously frustrating to say the least. On December 15th I made the trek to the Bell Centre and saw the Leafs lay an egg that kicked off the run that led to JFJ's firing. It was actually a great night other than the hockey. The atmosphere is electric, the anthem was sung loudly and proudly, and no one killed me for being a Leafs fan despite it being within the law to do so (or so I was told by my Montrealer host). Anyway, my buddy and I had a good deal of liquid courage, I did some yelling at Habs fans (especially after the second when I let them know that the Leafs had them right where they wanted them...in retrospect I took a lot less shit than I deserved), and I picked up a couple of funny stories.
The first involved my neighbour. As I walked in I saw him sporting an Almo jersey and a Leafs cap and a woman with a stain on her shirt. Turns out it was a Habs jersey. I made the obligatory "you should trade her in" joke and then started chatting with the guy wondering how a guy with a thick French accent could end up a Leafs' fan. Well, turned out that the guy was from Quebec and was a huge Norqidues fan. While Leafs fans have Kerry Fraser's blatant disregard for the rules the 1993 playoffs equivalent for the Nords is Ron Hextall's gaping five-hole. I asked him why he made the trip all the way to Montreal for the game and his reply proved that the flame of hate never burns out: Fuck the Habs and fuck their fans!
Which brings me to the second story and the observation about Habs fans: they are obsessed with the Leafs. More often than not that night, and tonight, chants of "Leafs Suck" made the rounds instead of "Go Habs Go". Most soccer fans would cringe at the thought of chanting about the other team but these fans revelled in it. But that's not the funniest part. Through the Molson Haze I listened intently that 15th of December and what the fans were singing will be no shock to those with a passing knowledge of the pratfalls that occassionally befall our francophone brothers' when they make infrequent forays into English: Leafs Sucks. That extra 's' had me roaring with laughter which balanced out the tears that the Leafs were inducing.
But there were no tears for Leafs fans tonight as Trader Cliff's entirely new team outplayed the Habs on their way to a 4-2 win. I mean, that's the only explanation for the result right? The Leafs must have traded their entire team in the past 2 days. VeTo made big saves. The defence, especially McCabe, played a decently physical game at the back. The forwards forechecked well and created some nice goals. It was like watching the Bizarro Leafs.
The one blight on the game was once again the refs. Not that they made bad calls but that they were horribly inconsistent. All of the Leafs' penalties were penalties but two came right after easily called infractions by the Habs went unnoticed and despite running picks all night the only interference call went against the Leafs. The most egregious miss was when Stajan was flipped by Sergei Kostitsyn while trying to chase the puck carrier in the dying seconds. How Habs fans could seriously complain loudly after perceived non-calls is beyond me. Everytime a Hab went down, regardless of how easily it was, there were boos.
The ironic thing about the interference calls is that one of the other brutal ones came early in the game and served to wake up Darcy Tucker. Patrice Brisebois completely avoided playing the puck and levelled Tucker. You could see that Tucker was waiting for a chance to run him for the rest of the shift but luckily he didn't get a chance. He did get his revenge 1:24 into the second when he embarrassed Patrice with a nice fake, pass down low, and a great finish from in close on the return feed. He also added an empty netter.
And the best part about a third consecutive win over our divisional rivals (Sabres 4-2, sens 4-2, Montreal 3-2) is that the Kings and Lightning both won tonight so no ground was lost in the Slide for Stamkos.