Click on the image to embiggerate!
A lot has changed since 2004. I’ve have five jobs with three different employers. Three Presidential elections have come and gone. I went from being twenty-five years old with nearly a decade of experience to middle aged. I endured a lockout that wiped out an NHL season. I also endured John Ferguson Jr.’s reign of error in the Leafs front office as well as a parade of coaches that refused to play a rough style of hockey that was the team’s trademark. Despite the ridicule I received from fans of other NHL teams, I remained a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And with a third-period Joffrey Lupul shot that trickled over Craig Anderson’s shoulder the Leafs exorcised every demon that haunted the organization for the past nine years: JFJ, Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson, Vesa Toskala, Tyler Seguin and the immortal Brett Lebda.
The Leafs qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Playoffs? PLAYOFFS!!!
Tonight’s journey wasn’t easy. While most Leafs fans were worried about a nightmare scenario in which they’d miss the playoffs by going 0-4-0 while every team behind them ran the table, I sat down and kept calm as the puck dropped. Dion Phaneuf briefly opened the scoring, but the zebras disallowed his goal when Leo Komarov interfered
was pushed into with Anderson by Chris Phillips in the crease.
Then I nearly turned on my fellow Leafs fans on Twitter when they screamed for Frazer McLaren to be suspended 20 games for the intent to head butt Matt Kassian during a first-period fight. Notice I said intent. Only incidental contact was made between McLaren’s noggin and Kassian’s grill, so the refs let it go with nothing more than matching five-minute majors for fighting.
However, the hatred toward McLaren from bitter Leafs fans on Twitter afterward was so bad, you would have thought he had compared Matt Cooke to Sirhan Sirhan. One of those turncoats even tweeted Brendan Shanahan to review the fight.
The Leafs finally got on the board in the second period when JVR (James van Riemsdyk) potted two goals, both of which were assisted by Phil “Thank You” Kessel and Cody Franson. Jakob Silfverberg kept the game close with a last-minute goal before the second intermission, but Nazem Kadri and Lupul erased all doubt the Leafs would choke away another playoff berth in the final period.
I hope the Leafs hang on to fifth place. They own Ottawa and Montreal this season, and I’m certain they could dispatch either club in five games if they met in the first round. The Bruins? I won’t make any predictions. The Leafs are healthy, while the Bruins might be in ruins due to injuries and having so many games left on their schedule. It could go either way at this point.
But what if the Bruins and Canadiens keep playing like they have been lately? The Leafs are only two points behind the Bruins, and four points behind the Habs. They’re visiting Florida for
a vacation two games against the Lightning and Panthers.
All of a sudden next Saturday’s game against Montreal has a lot more meaning, doesn’t it?