Well that does it, we’re going to have to wait until next year to hop back on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ bandwagon. There are a lot of broken hearts in the city this morning, but there shouldn’t be.
Why? Well, I’m one of those bandwagon fans that didn’t expect the Leafs to make it past Game 5 against the Bruins, not because I’m not a “Be-Leafer” but because at the end of the day, it’s just the way sports work: Experience trumps Heart.
That’s exactly why there is a huge hangover in Toronto this morning though–because the Leafs played with a TON of heart. Playing with Heart inspires. Playing with Heart, is what a city will rally around in shitty weather, outside the ACC, standing on their feet for hours. Playing with Heart is the stuff movies are made of. And there’s nobody in Toronto this morning that can accuse our beloved Leafs of not playing with Heart.
Playing with Experience, however, is what wins series. Experience is ultimately, what drives consistency. Experience allows for Calm Under Pressure. Experience is something that the Bruins had a wealth of, that the Leafs did not. It’s not something we should fault our Leafs for, it’s just a simple reality. In fact, we should look at the last 7 games as a city of hockey fans with nothing but optimism: it’s 7 more games of playoff Experience than our Leafs had coming into the season. They can only grow and mature from here, and learn from the lessons of the season.
Here’s the better news: Experience is acquired over time, and the Leafs have time on their side. Heart, however, is something you can’t teach. Heart was inherent in this group of young men, and based on this information, I am looking forward to 2014. In 2014, this group of men will be even more hungry (arguably bringing even more Heart) and they will have acquired a (half) season of Experience, and some very valuable lessons.
The extra part of the Heartbreak, was seeing the Bruins coming back from a 4 – 1 disadvantage, to win the game 5 – 4 in overtime. For once in my life, I can’t even call that type of loss”choking.” Why? Well, because for every game that the Leafs won, the last 5 minutes of play brought about extreme blood pressure increase in all of Toronto. The Experienced Bruins knew how to take advantage of an empty-net situation, they knew how to put pressure on in the last few precious minutes of play (which seemed to be frozen in time), and for every Leaf victory prior to Game 7, the Leafs were damn lucky that the clock ran out. Last night’s game was the exception–the rally in game-ending play started a few minutes earlier, and the clock had enough time on it to bring about a Bruin victory. Of course, the victory could have gone either way, but at the end of the day, it did not turn out in the Leaf’s favour. But, let’s not dwell on it.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Leafs. It’s just the way things happen in sports: very high highs, and very low lows. You should be proud of yourselves for inspiring a city to it’s feet through a Game 7, and you have nowhere to go but up in 2014.
Reimer was a hero throughout this series, and I hope he’s taken the time to applaud himself for that. I hope the rest of the Leafs can do the same. Take away the positives, enjoy some down time, and learn from the shortcomings through acquired Experience. I for one, can’t wait to see this group of men play in 2014.