Once upon a time, I gave up on this team. I came to the conclusion that this collection of individuals was not as good as the sum of its parts. This team was finally showing the truth that it had never been a piece or two away from getting back to the playoffs but it had been a lot farther than previously imagined. Now, the Leafs still face a hard road to the playoffs but I am done hoping for a lottery draft pick. After all, who knows how these picks will work out anyway? This is supposed to be a super deep draft so the Leafs could still get a good player at 30 when they win the Stanley Cup.
Today, I return to the Leafs playoff push a chastened young man. Today, I believe that the Leafs can make the playoffs and I am changing the site to reflect that. I may have just cursed the Leafs and caused myself unending heartache and what-ifs by abandoning reason and rationality but dammit, this is hockey, and it's about nothing if not unbridled enthusiasm and irrational hopes. Hell, Habs fans even think that they have a shot at the Cup (hint: powerplays go down during the playoffs).
As for last night, it proved an interesting counterpoint, along with Tuesday night, to a conversation I had the other night before dinner with my relentlessly optimistic uncle. He has never squandered his fandom on dreams of a top 5 pick but has remained steadfastly loyal to the Leafs. I tried to explain to him that the Leafs struggled in these kinds of games, that they didn't have a good track record in games like these...and I struggled to find the words to explain it, when my aunt finished the thought perfectly - in big games. The last two games have gone completely against the conventional wisdom and if the Leafs have any hope of making the playoffs they'll have to continue this play.
It was an odd night last night too. After coming back, from 3 goals down, IN THE THIRD PERIOD, the Leafs were walking into their personal house of horrors. Two Stanley Cup contending teams' hopes were dashed by the intimidating Flyers and the rabid fans in the Wachovia Center. However, these Leafs didn't back down. Sundin might have only played 5 minutes but that didn't stop Stajan from doing all of the little things to help the team win. The injury didn't keep Dominic Moore from using his speed to show that he belongs with the Leafs (another JFJ waiver wire miracle). Mats' absence didn't keep Jiri Tlusty from refusing to let a Scott Hartnell hit back him down as he replied in kind. Not seeing the captain take a regular shift didn't keep Kubina from continuing his GWG mojo going.
All of the players managed to raise their games when Mats was out of the lineup because he was there with them as he had been all year. Throughout the season Mats has showed that never-say-die effort and the benefits are being reaped during this stretch. Is it too little too late? Probably. Will we enjoy the ride? No doubt about it. Next up are the fading Sabres at home. Pity the Sabres because they won't know what hit them.
From The Branches
Sean joins me in ending our apostasy. The script is most certainly getting re-written and not a second too soon.
Eyebeleaf finds much to like about the Leafs' performance. He's enjoying Kubina's rejuvenation and I can't say that I haven't either. Get on the bandwagon because our Czech Clydesdale is apparently taking us to the playoffs.
- Steve looks at the last 10 turns on the Leafs roller coaster and realizes two truths:
If the Leafs survive to make the playoffs 2 things will be true. 1 ) They deserve to be there. 2) Miracles can happen. I’ll leave it at that.
I heartily agree with the first and am starting to dream about the second.
Go Leafs Go!