Maple Leaf Drag

On this side of the “safe” border, it’s a day for drinking out of celebration.    On the other side, there’s far ore drinking for despondency going on today.  Especially if you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With the possible exception of a day above 10 degrees Celsius in winter, few Torontoians have known anything as scarce as an NHL hockey championship.  Much as was the case with Red Sox and Cubs fans, as the years without one grew to larger and larger totals, the frustration and exasperation grew in sympatico proportions.  And after the events of last night, possibly escalated even quicker.


The scene in the Maple Leafs locker room seems to be the same each year. Long faces. Sullen voices. Expressions of hope amid the disappointment of another season ending too soon.

The Stanley Cup drought stretched to 57 years when David Pastrnak eluded Mitch Marner, picked up a dump-in, skated by Morgan Rielly and beat surprise starter Ilya Samsonov to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 overtime win in the seventh game of the first round.

The Leafs are still searching for a Game 7 victory. They last won one in 2004, against Ottawa. But now 2024 joins failed attempts in 2013, 2018, 2019 (all against Boston), 2021 against Montreal and 2022 against Tampa Bay. The Leafs also lost the winner-take-all Game 5 to Columbus in the qualifying round of the pandemic-induced summer playoffs of 2020.

SPORTSNET’s Luke Fox took the crying emoji mindset up a notch with his own reporting:

Same sad faces, same old story.

As the (willing) members of the Toronto Maple Leafs core walked one by one across the TD Garden’s visitors’ room and faced all the usual questions following this era’s eighth post-season series loss in nine attempts, there was a striking familiarity to the hollowness of it all. 

The latest in a long list of series in which this group was just good enough to lose.

“It sucks, to be honest. We were really close, and we battled back into the series, and I don’t know what to say. It’s just an empty feeling right now,” said William Nylander, the only member of The Core to score in any of Toronto’s three elimination games this week.  Look, I don’t think there’s an issue with the core. I think we were (expletive) right there all series. Battled hard and got it to Game 7 in OT. That’s a (expletive) feeling.”

But you will not find an ounce of sympathy from anyone in Boston.  Obviously, it’s a city with a history of gut-wrenching losses.  Just ask any New Yorker who has been looked at by Sawx lovers with tears in their eyes after the gods smiled upon Bucky Dent, Mookie Wilson and Aaron Boone, among others.

But more recently, it’s been the Bruins that have been the source of angst and consternation. and with their own season on the line, USA TODAY’s Mike Brehm captured the existential nature of what was as stake last night for the other side:

(C)oach Jim Montgomery said after a Game 6 loss that he needed star David Pastrnak to step up.  He did.

Pastrnak scored at 1:54 of overtime on Saturday night and Jeremy Swayman was spectacular in net as the Bruins rallied to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 7.

The Bruins, who had led the series 3-1 before losing two in a row, avoided an unprecedented second consecutive playoff collapse. Now they’ll get a chance to try to redeem themselves in the second round against the Florida Panthers, who stunned the Bruins last season.

And while the goaltenders for both the Leafs and Bruins were indeed outstanding, the tension that cut through TD Garden last night was palpable.  A winner-take-all game that was scoreless more than 40 minutes in, one that needed the ultimate sudder death to decide.

And once again, the Leafs will enter a long, hot summer as the source of debate and angst.  Listen to any hockey podcast or any program on all-sports Toronto radio and you know that whatever the Blue Jays might accomplish or any distraction the already impending Argonauts’ season might offer, nothing will dominate the airwaves more than the results of last night and the potential fallout.

For those of you who will be in earshot of this, my deepest sympathies.



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