Allan Maki shares his opinion on the previous night’s NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929. The Toronto Blue Jays of 1987. Golfer Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 British Open. And now another legendary collapse: the Toronto Maple Leafs Game 7 nightmare of 2013.
It’s going to be remembered for a long time. You don’t blow a three-goal lead in the final 10 minutes and 42 seconds, give up two goals in the last 1:22 then surrender the deciding goal in overtime of Game 7 and skate off without a scar.
What happened to the Leafs on Monday night was madness heaped on chaos doused in disbelief. For the Bruins, it was a historical first, the biggest third-period comeback by a team in the third period of a Game 7 in NHL history. For the Leafs, it was like being Bill Buckner as the ball bounced between their legs.
Up by three goals, the Bruins shy of bodies on defence, their hometown fans clearly restless, Toronto had it in the palm of its gloves – the game, the series, who could say how much more? And then Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic scored before Patrice Bergeron netted the tying goal followed by the winner in OT. Just like that 5-4. A miracle comeback, an epic failing.
One Toronto newspaper used this as its headline, “The choke’s on us.” Even the Leafs knew there was no nice way to explain what had happened.
“Four to one, you can’t lose that game,” said Phil Kessel.
“We just ran out of gas,” insisted Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle.
The younger Leafs, they ran out of gas? That was supposed to be their strength. Their youthful exuberance was going to pay off when the bigger, heavier Bruins lost their legs. Instead, experience won out. The puncher tagged the boxer. The Leafs stopped skating. They panicked. As the Bruins’ Bergeron so aptly explained it: “We all believed we could do the job. We have the experience to do the job … We found a way.”
The Toronto-Boston series began with a slate of questions all directed at the Leafs. Would Kessel show up against his former teammates? Would Dion Phaneuf bring his A game or that other version? Could goalie James Reimer handle postseason heat? Well, Kessel did more than show up; he played large. Phaneuf indeed brought both his games – the good and ugly – while Reimer would have stolen the show if only his defence had done more.
What hurts now, and for years to come, has to be used as a lesson. That’s the all-important question facing these stricken Leafs: how do they respond to having their souls ripped out in such a dramatic fashion?
Three years ago, the Bruins were up 3-0 in a playoff against the Philadelphia Flyers and lost four straight. Boston learned its lessons so well it won the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Leafs aren’t going to win the Cup next year, but they can take another stride in that direction. They’ll be the guys with the nasty-looking scar running through their lineup.
There are playoff rituals, good-luck routines and then there’s Brad Richards. The 6-foot, 198-pound rabbit’s foot. Mr. Four-leaf Clover. Put him in a Game 7, his team wins.
It had happened four times before Monday’s Game 7 between Richard’s New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals. And it happened again, with the Rangers winning 5-0 and Richards running his Game 7 record to a sparkling 5-0.
Richards, of course, was on the ice for the Rangers’ first and winning goal in the opening period in Washington. In his five Game 7s, he has scored a goal and collected three assists. With a record like that, you’d think he’d be the Rangers’ ace in the hole. Oh, he’s in a hole, all right.
The veteran forward spent Game 6 on the fourth line with Chris Kreider and Arron Asham and played just over nine minutes. In Game 7, he stayed on the fourth line and drew just over 11 minutes of action. Maybe soon, once he crawls out of coach John Tortorella’s mud pit, Richards can go back to being a top-six player and a Ranger of influence. Knock on wood.
Watching Mike Keenan’s on-line promo for his new team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL, can’t help but make you feel creepy. First there’s the horror-theme music. Then the spinning camera work. Then he turns his head in time with the music, just to throw you a hairy eyeball.
Then he speaks. “Hi, I’m Mike Keenan. Some call me Iron Mike. I’m pleased to be here as your new coach. Look for me this week on YouTube. Very interesting interview.” (All of which comes with Russian subtitles.)
Iron Mike behind the former Iron Curtain? Very interesting concept. But like the reality show What Would Ryan Lochte Do?, it’s doomed to a very short run.