Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The Aftermath-Toronto, 2013.

They cleaned up the debris at the Maple Leaf Square in Toronto on Tuesday morning. The location gained prominence in the last few weeks as a gathering place for the members of the Leafs Nation. Toronto Maple Leaf fans gathered on the west entrance to the Air Canada Centre, those who could not, or would not fork out big money for a ticket to the game.

They also showed up to watch the games on the big screen at the Square, even the games taking place in Boston! Fans lined up hours before the game, in near-freezing temperatures, and paid to be there. They had to limit the number of fans they would allow in the area, and the overflow crowded the gates to the event. Such is the nature of the commitment of the fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Cody Franson had scored twice for the Leafs, once in each of the first two periods. He had atoned for a serious gaffe in the first period when he sent an errant pass to the Bruins' Bartkowski, who scored his first NHL goal.

I will not go into all of the details of the collapse on Monday night; needless to say, there was great pain experienced by the entire Leafs Nation at the 6:05 mark of the overtime period. It was then that Boston Bruin forward Patrice Bergeron tapped the puck into the Leafs’ net to extend the Bruins’ season. It also dashed the hopes of the Leafs to play more hockey in the Spring of 2013.

They will be discussing the defeat for a long, long, time. It was Game Seven, winner take all, loser go home. I know that there were sets of golf clubs hidden in both dressing rooms, in the event of an unfortunate outcome. When the puck hit the twine in overtime, the internet exploded with ecstasy from Bruins fans, and plenty of moaning and groaning from the blue and white fans. Boston fans on FaceBook banged on their computer keyboards to share the love. It was their time to revel in the victory, and they spared no mercy.

Certainly, a bitter pill to swallow for Toronto the Good. The Leafs had scored two quick goals early in the third period to extend their lead to 4-1. It was all smiles and chuckles on the bench. The talking heads began to list the reasons why the Bruins were doomed to defeat: they had missed their flight the previous night, and were exhausted; the old defensive corps was worn out; Dennis Seidenberg, a blueline stalwart, played only 37 seconds to start the game, and could play no more because of injury; their hearts were broken.

For four minutes, the Leafs enjoyed the three goal margin. They did what they could to preserve their expected win. They dumped the puck into the corners, and chased the Bruin defenders, to wear them out even more. They played “kitty bar the door” in the centre ice area, to thwart Bruin attacks. They pressured the Bruins into making mistakes. They did whatever was necessary to salt away the win.

At 9:18 of the third period, Nathan Horton snapped a wrist shot behind Leafs’ goalie James Reimer. Agreed, Reimer was exhausted. He had carried the entire load for the Leafs in this series, and he had handled a lot of rubber. He also had to deal with several large Bruin players who liked to park on his doorstep, to obstruct his view of the puck. Milan Lucic added another marker after the Bruins had pulled their goalie, and Bergeron added the tying goal in the final minute.

The Bruin giants had come to the fore, and got the job done: Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Jaromir Jagr all played key roles in the win. Tuukka Rask made the key saves in the Bruins’ net.

Eight teams remain in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup. There will be more fireworks in North American arenas. The Senators from Ottawa, the ones who skate in ScotiaBank Place, now carry the mantle for the Canadian franchises. Kudos to the Leafs for a fine season, their first taste of playoff hockey in nine years.

Pass me the remote.

James Hurst

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