Did you catch the Taylor Swift reference in the title? It’s there because this team’s relationship with its fans truly feels like a doomed relationship spiraling towards a messy breakup. After years of historic collapses, the Toronto Maple Leafs have set themselves up for what may very well end up being the largest choke in franchise history as they blow a 3-1 series lead and head into a Monday night game seven against the Montreal Canadiens.
For fans, what’s there left to do other than listen to breakup songs and wonder why you invest so much energy into this franchise? Faltering against a team that finished with eleven less wins during the season, a team with a goal differential 48 goals worse than Toronto’s, a team whose highest scorer had less points than three different Leafs. The only variable working in the favor of the Montreal Canadiens seems to be that they are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team who has the energy of a cartoon villain from a children’s television show, finding the most absurdist way to stumble into foiling their own plans.
At what point does believing in this team count as a form of Stockholm syndrome? We gather here, we line up weeping in a sunlit room only to be let down time and time again before the night is over.
I want you to know this is me trying. A lifetime of supporting this team has left a bitter feeling in the taste of many mouths, including my own. Some fans may argue that a real fan wouldn’t be negative, a real fan would continue to believe in this team as on paper they’re still the favourite for Monday’s game seven. Maybe that’s true, but at some point endless positivity gets diagnosed as mania.
Bet let’s get manic about it. Let’s look at the positives and see what exists heading into Monday’s game.
It’s increasingly feeling like if this team wins it will be because of Jack Campbell. His performance this season and in the playoffs has not only exceeded all expectations but lapped them numerous times. The Montreal Canadiens blasted 10 shots at him within the first five minutes of game six and he kept the Leafs in it for as long as he possibly could before finally surrendering two shorthanded goals in the third period. He has been the Leafs best and most consistent player, and it hasn’t been particularly close. In the playoffs, good goaltending can steal you games, and Jack Campbell has shown he’s entirely capable of exactly that.
Game Changer Potential
The Leafs still have another gear that we have unfortunately yet to see these playoffs. With two combined goals through six games from their entire first line, there’s the hope that game seven will finally be when they decide to turn it up a gear and showcase why Matthews and Marner both finished top five in league scoring. Montreal’s best players have showed up this series and Toronto’s hasn’t – they have one game left to do so, and it could be the difference. The pair have faced plenty of criticism for their playoff performances and it’s entirely justified. When you are young, they assume you know nothing, Matthews and Marner need to prove those doubters wrong and show Toronto’s young stars able to win games on their own.
The Toronto Maple Leafs looked upset losing. When Marner took his third period penalty, he looked close to tears in the penalty box. During post-game press conferences, the team knew they weren’t good enough. This is exactly what the team needs to realise, an epiphany that they have been a disappointment. Too often the Toronto Maple Leafs have seemed to lack passion, and gotten complacent when they thought they could just walk over a team. Yesterday’s loss may have been what the team needed to realise that there are no free wins in the NHL playoffs. They need to show up and puck drop and not take a single shift off. If they head into Monday’s game with that mindset, it could be a whole different team.
Stood on the cliffside
Screaming, “Give me a reason”
Your faithless love’s the only hoax
I believe in
Don’t want no other shade of blue
No other sadness in the world would do