May 13 2013 09:33PM
Jared Wickerham/Getty via NHLInteractive
Sports are the best.
Sports are the worst.
Sports break your heart. At some point each season, the championship aspirations of the teams we follow end one-by-one. It's like an Agatha Christie novel. In the meantime, we have things to cheer about. Things to swell us up with civic pride, the feeling of community, the visual and aesthetic appeal of watching our favourite athletes do things we could never do, and doing it for us, with the logo we've grown up cheering for on their chest, representing us.
Monday night was the Toronto Maple Leafs' turn and like zombies, thousands of hockey fans will walk away from Maple Leaf Square hanging their heads. But they'll be hanging their heads because for the first time in nine years, the Maple Leafs had a chance. For the first time in nine years, they last just a little bit longer than all the experts thought they would.
Leafs lose 5-4 in Game 7 overtime after losing a late 4-1 lead.
May 13 2013 12:07PM
What the Leafs and Bruins are playing for
There isn't a whole heck of a lot to discuss in advance of Game 7.
To this point, we know the strengths and the weaknesses of each team. The Maple Leafs are weak when it comes to forward depth. The Bruins are weak when it comes to defensive depth. The Bruins top line has been unable to score goals and the Leafs have had the better goaltending through six games.
There is no reason whatsoever to trot out a player's statistics from "elimination" games or "clinching" games. Looking at playoff results to form any conclusion is just looking at a small sample size. Remember how coming into the series it was assumed that Phil Kessel couldn't play against the Bruins, and it showed because he had 3 goals in 22 games against Boston?
He has 3 in 6 games now. It's not because the playoffs mean anything different, but now you can look at it as Kessel having 6 goals in 28 games. It's still too small a sample to form any meaningful conclusion (really, Phil Kessel has 197 goals in 525 career games) but aren't you glad you let Kessel show you what he has rather than form an opinion based on a fraction of Kessel's career games coming into the series?
May 13 2013 10:14AM
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED??!?
Game 7. Oh. Em. Leafs.
May 12 2013 09:14PM
For about four years we've heard the same tired story about how Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel couldn't win the big game, how they had talent to burn but never led the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If you're a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and have heard that crummy story from anybody lately and it bugs you, just print out the boxscore of this game, and show them the relevant section: Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, the two best skaters on the Toronto Maple Leafs, scored the two most important goals for the franchise in over a decade in the third period of an elimination game.
James Reimer was excellent but didn't necessarily have to be. The end of regulation came from an expected push by the Boston Bruins, and the result of a tightly-fought defensive battle through two periods turned up in the favour of the home side.
Final score: 2-1. Series tied 3-3. We will have Game 7.
May 12 2013 09:47AM
It's the second consecutive do-or-die game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, or their second "must win" of the season. One of the things that's interesting to note about the Boston Bruins is that their playoff record is not real good in recent years.
They won a Stanley Cup, but it took them three Game 7s (and a Game 7 OT) to do it. They're just 3-4 in Game 7s since the beginning of the Claude Julien era, and I think something like 3-7 in potential clinching games not counting Game 7s. The Bruins, in Tuukka Rask's first season as a starting goalie, bled out after gaining a 3-0 series lead on the Philadelphia Flyers and went down 2-0 to Montreal the year after.
I think this season's Bruins, when healthy, are the best Bruins team they've had in those years, but their late-season record is awful. That comes with the territory when you employ two goaltenders considered absolutely insane even when factoring in the positional standards.