Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Did That REALLY Happen?



Second Round.
New York Rangers.
Home Ice Advantage.
Which of my eight Leaf jerseys do I wear to work tomorrow in celebration?

These were thoughts running through my mind at about 6:15 PM Pacific Standard Time on Monday, May 13, 2013. Well, they weren't actually "running" through my mind, as opposed to trying to break down the locked front door and prying open the shuttered windows of my mind. I did not want these thoughts, there were still fourteen and a half minutes left in game seven. Sure, my Leafs were up 4-1 on Boston after the goal by Nazem Kadri, but too much time remained for me to give in to the thoughts trying to creep into my head.

It was this point that Twitter exploded with assertions that this game was over, and not from just average fans but from professional and well-respected hockey writers. An example of the Tweets I was seeing at this point in time:

Adam Proteau, Hockey News              
"Kessel. Kadri. Contest. Kaput."
Howard Berger, Author
"Lights out baby. Leafs movin' on."
Dave Bidini, Author, Musician
"monumental. i love you. goodnight from Stockholm."
These comments were all made right after the 4-1 goal and in hindsight were a bit premature. Also right around this time I had a buddy of mine (and fellow Ontario native) named John drop by my house because he wanted to "celebrate with me". Still, I wouldn't give in to the impending euphoria.
And then it began. The previous thoughts attempting to find foothold in my mind were replaced by these new ones...
Did Nathan Horton really score with over ten minutes remaining?
Did Matt Frattin miss the net on a breakaway three and a half minutes later?
Did Milan Lucic throw Carl Gunnarsson into the corner boards two minutes after that?
Did Lucic really shovel in a rebound less than two minutes later?
Was it really 4-3 now with 82 seconds left?
Could it get worse?
It got worse.
Why was Chara alone in front of Reimer...all by himself?
It was at this point where the numbness began to set it. Real, physical numbness. As overtime began I had that feeling of butterflies that is usually brought on by a stressful life event. That feeling I'd gotten only a few times in the past, that nervousness I felt right before making a best-man speech in front of 300 mostly-strangers over a decade ago. I didn't even have this feeling during the 2010 Gold Medal Canada/US game. Probably because deep down, I knew this one was not going to turn out my way.

And of course, it did not.

However, almost immediately after the collapse was complete I turned my thoughts to the big picture scenario and asked a few more questions...

Did we really win two games IN Boston?
Had James Reimer finally proven himself as a number one goaltender, especially in Games 5 & 6?
Did Jake Gardiner really step in after being a healthy scratch and show the poise of a veteran and promise of a future star?
Did Cody Franson emerge as a consistent offensive threat?
Did Dion Phaneuf display the leadership qualities of a captain?
Did Phil Kessel finally exorcise his Boston demons?
Did James Van Riemsdyk step up his game in the post season as he had in the past and is he ready to become a star in this league?
Did Matt Frattin and Joe Colborne prove to be valuable pieces for the future?
Did Nazem Kadri shake off his end of season malaise and prove his year was not a mirage?
Were Grabovski and Kulemin integral spark-plugs that really weren't rewarded for their hard work?
Was James Reimer's wife really that hot?

To all these queries I answered yes.
The Leafs were not going to win the Stanley Cup this season. The average age of the eleven guys I mentioned above is 24 years old. This team has a future, a promising future.

As I checked email and went to work the next day, I received countless "condolences" from friends. It felt like someone close to me had died. Nothing could be further from the truth in my mind. Condolences are not needed, especially from pals who were rooting for the Leafs only because their team had been eliminated. Sure, we blew a stellar opportunity to move on to the second round but the big picture still looks fine to me.

And no, my buddy John is no longer allowed in my house for future Leaf games.


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