May 14, 2013 by bmcconnelluwo
It’s a situation no playoff team wants to be in.
Down 3-1 in the series against a division foe who seems to have had your number all year, facing elimination from the playoffs on the road.
That’s the situation the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in tonight going into game five of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals. Lose and hit the links, win and go home for a second elimination home game.
For the fans, the tension can be cut with a knife. And not like a wussy butter knife—this tension needs a Kill Bill-style Hattori Hanzo sword to get through it cleanly.
While most fans at the beginning of the season didn’t expect the Leafs to even make the playoffs, let alone make it past the first round, the overtime winner by David Krejci in game four left just as bad a taste in thousands of mouths as it did in the early 2000’s.
There has been plenty of controversy—the play of James Reimer (which this Leafs fan thinks has been absolutely stellar), the now infamous offensive zone pinch by Dion Phaneuf, the inability of the Leafs to consistently top Rask and the Bruins.
This all doesn’t matter going into tonight’s game.
Tonight is about one thing—winning game five. If the Leafs can’t do this, all the offensive zone pinches and shots on goal in the world won’t matter anymore until, god willing, next year’s playoffs.
This is what the Leafs’ players have to focus on tonight. Not the last game, not the three before that, and not the 15 before those—one game to stay alive.
There are plenty of positives to take away from game four. The Leafs, by all intents and purposes, should have come out on top in overtime. They outplayed, outshot, outmuscled and out-hearted the entire Boston Bruins team right up to—and including—the devastating 2 on 1 goal by Krejci.
The team played incredibly well during regulation as well— not allowing the Bruins to get that deadly fourth goal and fighting every second of the game.
Naturally there are going to be hiccups. The Leafs are a young, inexperienced team in the playoffs. They’re going to make mistakes. What proves the worth of this team is not the mistakes they make but how well they respond to them and overcome their consequences.
Phaneuf’s pinch in overtime was devastating. It sprang a 2 on 1 that eventually found the puck in the back of the net. Fans were upset; Dion himself was probably pretty upset.
But it was one mistake. That doesn’t negate his stellar play throughout the season and into the playoffs. Many would disagree with me here and I welcome it. But blaming one player for one mistake doesn’t do anybody any good—especially going into this game.
Jay McClement said it best in a post-game four interview when he stated “There are hundreds of mistakes out there every game and we all make them.”
Dwelling on the mistakes won’t do you any good the next time the Bruins come flying into your own zone.
So, going into game five—a do or die bout—the Leafs are going to have to forgive and forget. It doesn’t matter what happened in game four.
So, like I’ve said before, the Leafs need to keep the shots coming, using their speed, stay disciplined, eliminate the turnovers and play the bodies on the big Boston players.
If they do this and play like they did last game, I think we’ll see at least one more playoff game with the blue and white this year.
Keep the faith and, as always, Go Leafs Go.