stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
Years later, the Leafs are scarred by past playoff series
space
space
By CATHAL KELLY
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Monday, April 22, 2019 – Page B9

After pooching it at home, someone asked Auston Matthews about history. Which is another way of saying, "Exactly how cursed are you? Fortune-teller-at-the-mall cursed or coven-of-witches cursed?" Matthews tried to locate his prepared speech. He was sighing so much he seemed short of breath.

"You ... um ... I think you can learn from those experiences," he said.

Evidently not. At least, not yet. But as you just knew it would, we're going to try that again.

The Leafs aren't just a hockey club. They're proof that time warps exist. They're in the midst of being sucked back into one.

Matthews was referencing Game 7s as a general proposition, and Game 7s against Boston in particular. This will be the Leafs' third kick at it in seven years. You will recall that the first two didn't go well.

If body language directly after a big loss is a fair measure of where someone's head is at, the Leafs didn't look great on Sunday evening. A lot of vacant stares and hanging heads. John Tavares kept repeating, "It is what it is," as though that explained things.

By comparison, Boston's Brad Marchand walked to his postgame news conference in bare feet.

"We gotta give ourselves some credit," Marchand said, which is quite possibly the most Brad Marchand thing ever said.

But he's right. They do.

In Game 6, the Leafs were fantastic for 10 minutes. Then Boston did whatever the opposite of rope-a-dope is and shoved the Leafs out of the ring.

Two quick goals and that was essentially that. It ended 4-2.

"I don't know if the emotions got the better of us," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said later. Well, that certainly bodes well for Tuesday.

Boston did not look emotional. Occasionally, it looked bored. Near the end of the second, Zdeno Chara left his feet in an attempt to use Jake Muzzin's head to cut a window in the glass. Having just attempted to kill a man, Chara wheeled away, utterly careless.

At this time of year, the NHL becomes the Boston Bruins' world. Everyone else just lives in it.

The psychic scarring of Toronto's two previous Game 7s have defined this franchise's recent history.

Game 7 in 2013 - the Collapse - destroyed what remained of the team's reputation and set the fanbase to open revolt. It took a few months to scorch the Earth, but the clearage was very close to total.

Everything the Leafs have now - Matthews, Tavares, Babcock, the Shanaplan, self-respect - is a direct result of that humiliation. Had it not happened, the Leafs might still be trying to sell permanent mediocrity as a grand vision.

Last year's Game 7 was less awful, but also less positive. It established the idea that the Leafs are soft and undermanned. It created the narrative of the "missing piece". If the Leafs lose again, there are two possible scapegoats - whomever screws up on the winning goal (please God, for his own sake, don't let it be Jake Gardiner) or Babcock.

The coach is trying very hard not to own the Leafs' penalty-kill problems, but it's not going well.

Toronto's special-teams confusion is so total, Morgan Rielly wouldn't even venture a guess at what's wrong.

What are they doing on the power play?

"I don't really know," Rielly said. They turned the momentum on you after that fast start. How did they do that?

"I don't really know," Rielly said.

There's no right thing to say now, and a whole bunch of wrong ones. Best to appear stupid, rather than open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Forty-eight hours from now, Rielly will be either a goat or a GOAT. There's no middle ground.

Say they win on Tuesday.

The city goes bananas. After a few years of behaving reasonably, Toronto's habitual irrational exuberance about this team returns like air refilling a vacuum. All the goslow, baby-steps talk is now defeatist and, possibly, treacherous. The Leafs have shaken their demons and are poised to be greater than the 1977 Montreal Canadiens.

Say they lose on Tuesday.

Another round of self-flagellation.

Someone has to get fired - probably pinata enthusiast Nazem Kadri. Someone else has to get blamed - probably Babcock. His gold medals have earned him a charmed life in Toronto, but there will eventually come a point when people convince themselves that a generational coach is actually a complete charlatan. It's just the way of things.

In that scenario, the off-season is short and, by the time they're back at it, people have gone from loving being in the mix for a change to demanding immediate results.

The cry for change for change's sake picks up and the doomsday clock starts ticking.

It might be years before the blast, but you know it's coming.

The Leafs have floated on charm since Babcock's arrival. That was always going to end this spring. Once Tavares was signed, all the growing-pains excuses evaporated.

But this way - a Game 7 in Boston as a way to mark your progress - means that change in perception will be traumatic. By Wednesday morning, this team will be viewed quite differently, for good or ill.

On Sunday, Rielly got the last word. He just missed the first Game 7 disaster. Reputationally, he came out relatively unscathed from the second one. So he's allowed to have a sense of humour about this. Not everyone gets that freedom.

What's it going to take to win a Game 7 in Boston?

"Well, we're going to have score more goals than them ..." Rielly said. His comic timing is pretty good. People weren't sure at first if he was being serious, but Rielly gave it a couple of beats so they knew to laugh.

Once they'd stopped, his shoulders slumped a bit, he thought a little harder about the question and said, "I don't know." It was almost wistful. Don't worry about it, Morgan. This is Toronto. No one knows the answer to that question.

Associated Graphic

Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs bodychecks Boston Bruin David Pastrnak into the boards on Sunday at Scotiabank Arena.

DAN HAMILTON/USA TODAY SPORTS


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Drew_Fagan Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page