June 16, 2024

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The Maple Leafs performed the supplement miracle: an explanation for fans as confused as myself

The Maple Leafs performed the supplement miracle: an explanation for fans as confused as myself

On Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were part of an epic postseason meltdown. A desperate team, already behind in the series, had built up a three-goal lead halfway into the third and were well on their way to victory when it all fell apart in absolutely stunning fashion. Bad breaks, sloppy goals, and stupid penalties combined to open the door, and the result was one of the most heartbreaking losses in recent memory.

So far, no surprises. But here’s the twist: Leaves won.

I know. I am also completely confused.

I checked and double checked the box. I ran the numbers, and kept coming back with 5 being over 4. I’m not entirely sure the NHL still hasn’t reviewed the overtime goal and is about to announce that Alex Kerfoot’s stick has been high, but so far so good.

It’s the playoffs, everything’s on the line, and the Toronto Maple Leafs…doing good?

Well, they weren’t as good throughout the game, just as they weren’t in Game 3, but who cares. It’s the playoffs, there are no moral victories. No more style points, as a wise man once said. A win is a win, and this has been a win for the ages.

But also, that doesn’t make any sense at all. And since part of my job is searching for answers, I’m doing a reaction column tonight in an FAQ style. Let’s see if we can work through this together.


Q: Dude, what the hell is this?

A: I have no idea.

Q: Like.. what?

What?

s: (Question marks shoot from the head)

a: (exaggerated emoji)

Editor: This isn’t even remotely helpful.

A: Give me a break, I don’t have any recent experience with this sort of thing.

Q: Well, what really happened?

A: For the half-dozen of you who haven’t really had all the details you’ve been forced to consider whether you like it or not, here’s a quick recap. The Leafs were badly outplayed by the Lightning in the first half, taking a 2-0 lead. Toronto looked better in the second half, but by the time it was over, Tampa was leading 4-1. It felt like game over, and some of us may or may not have actually written most of the “Old Leaf” columns in the middle of the third column. But Auston Matthews scored twice to give us a game, Morgan Riley equalized with less than four minutes left, and the Lightning looked shocked. The Leafs continued to pressure in overtime, and William Nylander kicked a penalty kick. This led to:

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Q: Wait, they called the overtime penalty? Will people get angry about that?

A: Probably, because it’s the playoffs. But Mikhail Sergachev dived into Neylander’s feet and arm, taking a great chance to score. It was a penalty kick. Lightning fans can go crazy about it if they want to because that’s what fans do, but everyone else is going to fake it.

Q: So not only did the Leafs make a huge comeback, but…they were 4-1?

A: Yes, it was. Just like it did in 2013, as more than a few people have pointed out. Well, not quite like 2013, because that Boston meltdown came in Game 7 and ended the series. This is not over yet.

Q: Not technically, but… it’s over, right?

A: I mean this with all sincerity and respect: Shut up.

Q: Come on, nobody comes back from a meltdown like that. The Lightning gave the Leafs their best punches, losing twice in overtime, and now they look exhausted and defeated. These foliage have wrapped up.

A: As Wendell’s witness, I will terminate you.

Q: Display layout?

A: Well, let’s be clear about this. Leafs fans are happy now. They’ve just experienced one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, and it was one that turned all tired (but subtle) narratives upside down. None of us will sleep for days. What we just witnessed was amazing, and we will tell our grandchildren about it one day.

but! No Maple Leafs fan believes this series is over. Literally nobody. Maybe they’re starting to think the Leafs have turned the cards, or that things are finally different. They know that the odds when you are higher at 3-1 are much better than at 2-2 or worse. But each of us also knows that it takes four wins to end a streak, three not four, and there are plenty of ways this can go wrong. If you meet a Leafs fan who can’t imagine this team is still exploding, be nice to them because they are a fresh born.

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Q: Are you Leaf fans always so frustrated?

A: Sure!

Q: So what happens now?

A: There’s an extra day before Game 5, and in theory that might hurt the Leafs because they had momentum and the Lightning looked tired as Game 4 went on. But that’s probably for the best for the fanbase, because it gives everyone a day to freak out and watch Steve Dangle on repeat. before settling back into game mode.

Of course, this also means an extra day for everyone to explore ancient stories and stats. I’ll save you the trouble on the big one: In the Matthews era, the Maple Leafs are 0-for-9 in games where a win ends a streak. Two of those losses are in the past year to Tampa; Three of them were in overtime, literally one goal away. Now they either get to the dozen, or eventually they get the win that knocks them out of the first round.

Thursday night in Toronto will be something else. It will be noisy. It may only be loud despite the time it takes for lightning to score a 1-0, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Q: Don’t you mean “if” we get there?

A: Yes, sorry. Like I said, I kind of forgot how all this stuff works.

Q: Before we wrap up, do you want to take off your fanboy hat and take any kind of stab at actual objective analysis?

A: Not really, thanks.

Editor: Do it anyway.

a fine.

The Leafs got their butts kicked on the home ice in Game 1 because they didn’t show up on time, and it could happen again on Thursday. They were outplayed in nearly every Game 3 and at least the first half of Game 4, and probably didn’t deserve to come out of Tampa with both wins. Even Game 2, their unequivocally good game, came without Victor Hedman playing. The Lightning are proud champions, they’re very good, their key players have another level to reach, and we’re all anticipating their best game on Thursday.

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And let’s not forget, a problem with the Big Leafs over the years has been their almost insatiable need to get over themselves and ease off the throttle whenever anything vaguely good happens, including when they put up an equally wild comeback against the Blue Jackets. Now they will hear about how good they are for two days. This is not over yet.

Q: What is the last word?

A: Did I mention how it didn’t end?

Q: You have.

A: In this case: WHOOOOOOOOOOO!

(Photo: Mike Ehrman/Getty Images)