The scripture of Mike Babcock ends the fourth episode of The Leaf: Blueprint, which I have nicknamed the Freddy Andersen Redemption Episode. He begins by saying that if you keep looking at your phone, at articles, it is a dangerous way to "let someone else tell you who you are instead of knowing who you are."
Then the liturgy begins. "We ask them to try to be good pros every single day," Babcock says. "Eat right, live right, and be good in the community .... Treat [playing for the Leafs] with respect. You have an obligation to your fans to play hard, do things right, treat people right."
Anyone feel a sense of ominous forshadowing? If this episode is about the redemption of Andersen, it surely ends on a note that anticipates the fall of Garret Sparks.
But anyway. You know an episode is going to be entertaining when it starts with a dictionary definition of "bag skate," displayed on screen while ominous music swells in the background. Footage of a horrific game starts to play, interspersed by sheepish looking players walking into the practice rink looking like sad puppies. The game clips are of the 7-0 home loss to the LA Kings, and other clips show the practice in the dark.
Using Babcock's ever-present Catholic metaphors, the practice was called a "penance skate," and despite the lights going out, practice went on.
"You think they can't skate in the dark, or what?" Babcock asked a reporter who questioned him. This put me immediately in mind of the Hindu story of Arjuna, who saw his teacher eating food after candles had been blown out, and decided that he could apply this to his archery practice. He went on to practice shooting arrows in the dark and become the best archer in the world, so who are we to question Babcock's technique?
Then the true point of the episode emerged, although the way the episode is structured made it clear that the Tampa Bay shelling was a team loss and not just on Freddy's head. Some statistics rolled across the screen: that Andersen was 1-1-3 in his first five starts, and 4-1-0 in his next five. Using more Catholic phrases, Babcock said, "There's no witch hunt here at all. They want to cheer for you." Babcock explained that if you're good, the Toronto fanbase is behind you, and "If you're bad, they want a different guy."
And at some point in the episode came a montage of media voices gently asking Andersen why he's so terrible. Nice bit of irony there, Blueprint creators! After the Tampa Bay game, the episode used Freddy's own voice to describe his preparation and mental state. After a bit of this, there were clips of Andersen playing well.
The Flyers game became Andersen's redemption, with footage of good saves and Andersen holding tough in the crease, leading to a Leafs victory. The episode ended with a long shot of a happy Leafs dressing room, including a widely smiling JvR (Species, you should GIF the heck out of that), and Morgan Rielly snapping his fingers to the beat of silent music.
There are two other extremely important moments in the episode that everyone should note:
- Our most adorable child, Mitch Marner, has his infamous skipping goal celebration immortalized at the 7:40 mark.
- Marner also plays air guitar like the young spazz he is at the 9:14 mark. DEFINITELY needing GIFs of this one, to post for every single goal he scores, forever.
Hopeful episode, and here's hoping they continue this way!
See my previous episode recap here.