It’s almost too easy that a Star article that needs perspective brings up a guy called “Fisk”.
The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped an absolute heartbreaker in Pittsburgh last night. I’m not too interested in re-hashing it, and despite Toronto blowing a 4-1 third period lead, they managed a point out of a road game against one of the best teams in the East, and are still well in the playoff race.
They aren’t like, say, Minnesota, who blew a 4-1 third period lead to lose in regulation at home to a team with no offense like Nashville. I’d wager that that was the biggest collapse on the night, so let’s keep this loss in perspective, because it’s an 82-game season, and while dropping a valuable point like that is tough:
-The Leafs are still on pace for 92 points, which is good to crack 8th in the East
-Toronto played the best game I had seen them play in years, controlling the flow of play and getting on the wrong side of bad bounces and calls that kept the game close.
It’s not all that much consolation, sure, but in the frame-work of an 82-game season where the Leafs probably earned a win or two they didn’t deserve at some point, those bounces balance out. Perspective is key, which is easy to lose sight of when the team is in its first legitimate playoff race since 2006.
Unfortunately, Joseph Hall with the Toronto Star sort of lost that perspective at some point, writing “such collapses are common in sports, of course. So too, however, are comebacks in the following game.”
Hall goes on to list four games from wherein the Leafs could draw inspiration for tonight’s rematch with the Penguins, as if the game came down to the Leafs lacking in “clutchness” when they really just got bad goaltending down the stretch and suffered one of the worst bounces of the season, when Evgeni Malkin tied the game literally when a shot hit him in the throat and bounced in with 6 seconds to play.
I don’t think the Leafs could have played much better in that game, generating a lot of scoring chances through the first two periods. I was very surprised to see that the Penguins actually had 29 Corsi events to 25 with the score-tied in that game, although much of them were blocked shots. The score-close measure is more forgiving to Toronto, which gives credit to the team for its play when their were up 1-0 in the second.
So, inspiration? All you need is to look at last night’s performance and say “man, if we play like that, we won’t lose every game like this.” No. That game apparently belongs in the same breath as Team Canada’s Game Five loss in Moscow in 1972, Game Six of the 1975 World Series, and because we need to fit a Toronto reference in there, uh, the 1992 World Series and, for some reason, a Blue Jays three-game winning streak against Cleveland in August.
With the exception of the fourth example (which was kind of a stretch anyway. You couldn’t say the 2002 Team Canada was up against similar odds at the Olympics? When Wayne Gretzky came out with his “nobody wants us to win” speech? Or even the 1942 Stanley Cup? Be nice to get another hockey reference in there) these were literally teams put in backs-against-the-wall situations where another loss would spell doom (except for the ’92 Blue Jays. That one is also a stretch. Also, had Boston won Game Seven of the ’75 series, would they be on this list by virtue of coming back from a 3-2 series deficit? This is why the list is rather suspect).
The Leafs aren’t in a do-or-die mode yet. It’s an 82-game season, not a 3-game playoff or what have you. By my math, Toronto can still go .500 (16-12-4) and make the playoffs. They aren’t Columbus, who pretty much have to win out to have a hope.
Really, it was a tough loss, but it’s not the end of the Leafs season.