May 14, 2013 by bmcconnelluwo
Win, lose, tie, fail to finish, get abducted by aliens, whatever the outcome of the Leafs-Bruins series, the Toronto home team had a stellar season and one that its players, coaches and fans should all be proud of.
Don’t get me wrong, that game-seven loss hurt.
And I don’t mean hurt like it always does when the Leafs lose—because it most certainly does (they’re like my little blue and white children, I hate to see them sad)—I mean like a shovel to the face, want to give up television and live with the Amish kind of hurt.
After racking up a 4-1 lead with 10-minutes left in the third period, the Leafs gave up three straight, which sent the game into overtime.
In case you somehow missed the game, overtime didn’t go too well for the blue and white either. Patrice Bergeron scored, putting the final dagger into the Leafs—and my—heart.
Not even listening to Let It Be a few times through and thinking of all the positives this year has brought could make that hurt any less.
When the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be—I’m trying Paul, but you’re not a Leafs fan, you don’t understand.
Oww, my feelings.
But, despite the pain, this year has been a remarkable success in my eyes.
For a young team like the Leafs—who weren’t even expected to make the playoffs let alone force a decisive game seven after falling 3-1 in the series against the experienced, Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins—to play as well as they did, with as much heart, skill and determination as they did, that is a success.
It’s going to take a while to get over that loss, no doubt about it. James Reimer looked about ready to melt into the ice after letting the overtime goal in and the rest of the team seemed to want to join him.
But they played one hell of a game, one hell of a series, and I’m thankful to have been able to watch it.
Some takeaways from this season:
1) We have found our starting goalie
Yes, he needs to work on his rebounds—duly noted.
But for such a young, inexperienced goalie to come into just his second NHL season and put up the numbers he did and perform that well in the playoffs, that is evidence of a goalie worth sticking behind.
A loss like that, following the series that Reimer put up—he was the reason they got as far as they did—is going to make him a stronger goalie in years to come.
He’s experience the trial by fire—it burned him… a lot, and now he’s going to move forward and learn from the experience.
I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of goalie he’s going to turn into.
2) The fact that we have found our starting goalie means that we don’t have to trade away our future
The non-trade by Nonis to give Reimer a chance in the playoffs may prove to be one of the best choices the Leafs organization has made in a while.
I say this because of the play of some of the young players who would have been on the trading block had this trade been made—Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner.
Kadri was silenced for all but one game in the playoffs, yes, but his regular season play was stellar. He was a scoring, playmaking and penalty-drawing machine and that is something that will prove valuable to the organization in years to come.
Gardiner was one of the best Leafs on the ice since his first playoff game against the Bruins. I’m not going to go into too much detail about how since I’ve praised him before on here but the puck moving skill of this kid combined with his hockey IQ and offensive flair are going to make him a very valuable asset.
3) We now know what the young team can do in the playoffs
Chirp all you want about the last ten minutes of the Leafs 2013 season but that was a series for the books.
At no point did the vast majority of Leafs fans think that we would be making a serious run at the Cup—I didn’t and I’m perpetually delusional when it comes to this team.
Boston had our number during the regular season—and not just this year, many years prior to that too.
This series wasn’t about making a run at the Cup [however amazing that would have been], it was about getting the team back into the playoffs after a nine year drought. It was about giving the young, inexperienced blue and white team a taste of playoff hockey—and they got it against a Stanley Cup-winning team.
The simple fact that the young Leafs team was able to claw back into the series against a team like Boston and rack up four goals against a team that rarely lets that many in is a real testament to their work ethic.
So, non-Leafs fans, chirp if you feel the need to about a third period collapse—it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve hated on a team with some of the most passionate fans in professional sports.
But even the most vocal of Leafs haters can’t deny that that was one hell of a series and you can’t be a team of “Laughs” to put on that kind of show of hockey skill and heart.
So, with that thought in mind, I’ll retreat for the offseason to lick my wounds.
But I feel confident—because of that stellar series—that next year will be even better than this one. And that was the whole point of the Leafs season anyway.
If this is rebuilding I can’t wait to see the final structure.
So, thank you to the Leafs for the good times and the bad times [you know we’ve had our share] and we’ll see you next season.
Enjoy the links and, as always, Go Leafs Go.