The Toronto Maple Leafs are five games into their annual quest of getting my hopes up, only to crush my dreams in May – or dare I say, June?
Man, if the Leafs are still playing in June, that’ll mean they’re in the Stanley Cup Final and I’ll be in worse shape than Shaggy whenever Scooby goes missing and he’s forced to search the basement by himself.
“Scoob!? Where are ya buddy? Oh no, he’s gone. They got him! And they’re gonna get me too!”
You know the drill.
As a sports fan, one must never think too far ahead. Expectations get too high. Emotions get played with, as if a three-year-old is controlling them with a voodoo doll. And projections are made in a hurry, like Election Night on CNN.
That always bothers me. The polls just closed three minutes ago, they have 8% of the votes reported, yet already know who the winner is. Way to make the other 92% feel important.
It’s important to be calm – to not overreact to hot starts, or record breaking stats.
Auston Matthews has nine goals in five games and is tied with Morgan Rielly for the league lead in points, with 12? Wait, the same Morgan Rielly who broke Bobby Orr’s record for most points by a defenseman in five games?
Bobby “I might’ve been better at hockey than Wayne Gretzky” Orr? That, Bobby Orr? Okay.
But what about John Tavares, though? The big fish. Johnny Toronto, as
everyone no one calls him. What about him? Oh, he’s got six goals already? Mom’s spaghetti!
But Mitch Marner is slumping, right? No? He’s got 10 points? Oh.
Surely, they’re being aided by the passing prowess of William “Don’t call me Bill Nye” Nylander? What? He’s still not signed? Well then.
Alright, I can’t hold it in any longer….
The Leafs. Are amazing.
I had to separate that into two sentences, to remind myself to breathed.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are putting the puck in the net more than anyone else in the league. They are like an Italian at a buffet – “omnomnom, give me the calamari”.
The Leafs aren’t undefeated; they lost a game to the Ottawa Senators. Whatever. That shall not mitigate my excitement.
This team has been scoring converted touchdowns against teams. They put up seven against Chicago (in Chicago!) and seven against Dallas (in Dallas!).
Converted touchdowns. In hockey.
Look at me using football lingo to describe another sport. I’m basically an American. I should try and describe some as a linebacker, that would make me a full-blown citizen.
Auston Matthews is on pace for 148 goals this season. The Arizona Coyotes are on pace for 82.
If you haven’t noticed, I don’t care about sample size. That’s so Grade 12, Data Management. Don’t get me started.
The Leafs top power-play unit looks like a video game with a cheat code, but neither of those things are true. It’s real life and they’re just that good. What!?
Sorry, I haven’t seen a Leafs power-play this good since the Mats Sundin, Alex Mogilny, and Gary Roberts days, when Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe manned the blue line and Kaberle would refuse to shoot, so they’d send the puck down low and execute the cross crease pass to put the puck in the net.
I don’t know why the goalie didn’t put his stick on the ice to prevent it, but that’s not my problem. Should’ve read the scouting report.
Honourable mention to the time when the Leafs put Tie Domi on the power-play and he broke out for a 15-goal season.
The top power-play unit of Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Rielly, and Nazem Kadri are here to take your lunch money and don’t want to hear, “No”.
You can’t stop them. I don’t know when other teams will learn that they can’t take penalties against the Leafs, but I hope they never do.
On the bright side, whoever takes a penalty won’t have to sit in the sin bin for too long. We’ll have them bailed out of there in less than two minutes.
The power-play reminds me of what the San Jose Sharks threw out there a few years ago when they had the man advantage.
Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Brent Burns.
They were just too good. They dominated the puck. They scored goals. They couldn’t be stopped. Pretty sure they were playing playoff games in June that year…
If you’re a sports fan reading this post, you’re probably thinking I’m nuts. And I am. I have completely flown the coop.
Caw-caw, I’m gone. Where’s Paul?
And yes, it’s ridiculous to look at the success of the first five games and hop on a hype train with a one way ticket
to disappointment going anywhere, but I gotta tell you, the doors are closing and I am firmly in my seat, trying not to touch knees with the people next to me.
You know, train etiquette and stuff.
This is unlike me.
Sure, I have hesitations and reservations – not of the restaurant variety, sadly.
And if you don’t think I’m playing this up just a little bit for entertainment purposes, then you don’t know me. Deep down, I know what’s coming.
Eventually, a team is going to come along and prevent us from scoring. The Leafs are averaging five goals per game and haven’t scored less than three. Hello? We’re kicking field goals out there.
Eventually, a team is going to come along and shove us around. Maybe it’ll be a road game and the Game Operations Staff will play some Rock ‘N Roll between whistles to take their team to the next level, not unlike the “Special Stuff” in Space Jam.
I get it – the defense needs to be better.
I get it – we can’t rely on our offense every night.
I get it – playoff games are going to be much tighter than this.
I get it – William Nylander is nowhere to be seen and we kinda really need him.
I get it – we’ve played five games against teams that missed the playoffs last year.
The Leafs defeated Dallas by a score of 7-4. The Winnipeg Jets lost 5-1 to Dallas and many people say the Jets are the best team in Canada. What was their excuse?
Alright, now I’m just being petty. But do you get what I’m saying? I find the whole, “They’re playing well because it’s against lesser opponents” to be ridiculous.
You clearly haven’t seen the Leafs play against Buffalo, or Florida on Tuesday nights, for the last decade. We make “lesser opponents” look so good, you’d think we were Kurt Angle putting over John Cena in his debut, rather than a hockey team playing a conference foe.
None of you got that reference, but it’s fine.
The Leafs play the reigning Stanley Cup champions tonight – the Washington Capitals. It’ll be billed as a “test” for a “young Leafs squad” looking to “legitimize themselves” against “a team that knocked them out of the playoffs two years ago” and “won the Cup last year”.
If the Leafs win, the story will be that they’re legit…until they lose. If they lose, the story will be that they’re a fraud, only capable of beating “lesser opponents” and need to “clean up their defense” if they want to “contend” with the “big boys”.
I’ve been a Leaf fan all my life. I’m going to enjoy this for as long as I can.
In the past, I’ve been a foolish fan. The Leafs would sign players, hype them up as “goal scorers” or “scrappy players capable of 20 goals” and I’d fall for it.
Looking back, the Leafs were picking up nobodies. It was like picking up bruised fruit at the produce section. False hope.
Now that the Leafs have legitimate superstars, I remember what they look like and how they perform. It had been so long since this team had more than one guy to lean on offensively.
I was spoiled as a kid. The Leafs didn’t have to draft well because they could just throw money at anyone.
It’s no coincidence that it took the Leafs eight years to make the playoffs after the salary cap was introduced in 2005. They didn’t know how to build a team without luring free agents with money.
And you saw that in the first year out of the lockout. Jeff O’Neil, Jason Allison, and Eric Lindros were all signed, but couldn’t help bring the Leafs to the playoffs.
At the same time, young prospects were joining the fray – Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, and Alex Steen. I remember being so excited for all three of them.
Wow! Young players! Look how fast they skate! Wellwood looked great on the Junior team!
In reality, none of them were blue chip prospects. None of them were players you build a team around. Steen went on to have a nice career in St. Louis, but when he left Toronto, he was seen as a disappointment.
That’s what we did. We ruined players.
So if you think the Leafs are getting too much attention now, after five games, and that their fans are unbearable – you’re right.
But we deserve this. We’ve been waiting so long for this. And even if this season ends in peril, like the last 51 have, at least we have hope. Not the fake hope that was fed to us in the recent past. Real hope.
As a sports fan, that’s all you want.
As a Leafs fan, you want more than hope, but hope is a pretty great place to start.