• By: Dave Gross

Gods are finally smiling on Maple Leafs

“Hey, this is Gino from Woodbridge. Just wanted to say the Leafs are God’s team baby!”

Yessir. Nothing like sports radio in Toronto back in late 1980s where logic and reality never got in the way of rabid, aberrant opinion. ‘Twas the way of things, as they say. A very bad hockey team supported unconditionally by an over-excitable fan base.

Not that it was – or is – any different in other arenas across Canada. Could be Gino from Woodbridge or Bob from Orleans or Daniel from Vaudreuil-Dorion or AJ from Sherwood Park, fans are fans and passion is passion . . . deal with it, or don’t. It’s always going to be there.

But there’s a special place in the world of sports for the over-taxed and win-starved Maple Leaf follower. The butt of jokes and the same, tired lines: “Wasn’t even born the last time Toronto won a Cup;” “Fifty years and counting;” “Fifty-five years and counting!”

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

This is especially ironic coming from Ottawa Fan whose team, we remind you, hasn’t even qualified for a playoff spot in a long six years.

But we’re a bit off point here, so re-focus Dave G.

Monday night’s remarkable, come-from-behind 5-4 overtime topper of colossus Tampa Bay, in Tampa, might (and we cautiously write ‘might’) signal a TSN turning point for the beleaguered franchise. And for guys like Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan and Morgan Rielly and Mitchell Marner, and more and more names. (But not you Gino). The win on Monday could prove quite substantial in the great scheme of things.

While Toronto is not there yet, even the most jaded of hockey followers would have to admit this was one for the books. And it certainly looks at this point that the hockey gods are smiling pretty on the centre-of-the-hockey-universe.

Monday’s win was in direct contrast to that Leafs’ team of 2013. You remember, eh? Up 4-1 on Boston with five minutes to go in their Game 7 clash, the Buds surrendered the lead then the series when Patrice Bergeron tallied in overtime. It was the start of 10 straight years of misery in Hogtown. Or a continuation if you want to be more accurate.

Toronto: The team that just could not win.

But here we sit with an opportunity, well three opportunities if you’re counting, for Leaf Nation to put it all in the past.

To do it though, Auston Matthews et all will have to score the 1-2-3 pin on a team tougher to close out than a game of Whack-a-Mole. Tampa will not go quietly. That’s a sure thing.

Is there something a little different this time around for Toronto?

Well, recent and repetitive history tells us to remain slightly cynical. At the same time though, don’t you just get the feeling that the boat is finally about to sail into uncharted waters . . . the second round, by gum?

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Feels like sitting on the tarmac in flight delay: Can we get moving a little more quickly on the new ownership-new-arena-new-everything situation in Ottawa? Please . . . Good debate on the chat room boards arguing for or against the deal that sent Nick Paul to Tampa for Mathieu Joseph. Some blast Paul for his skating. Sure, but the guy plays smart and gritty and competes. IMHO, Joseph is a great skater but not much else . . . Gimme Paul all night long . . . Fave post (Ottawa board): “Can you imagine if The Leafs win the Cup and the Habs get (Connor) Bedard? Gonna have to seek out next level mindfulness.” . . . Last week’s ‘watchability’ piece is coming true on at least one front. Anyone grabbing the clicker to anxiously tune into Carolina-Islanders? Didn’t think so . . . The best on that scale? Tampa-Toronto. Two-for-two over here . . . Meantime, Edmonton-Los Angeles is wreaking havoc on the sleep schedule. Super series . . . Anyone else think strongly that New Jersey was on its way to a rapid exit after Games 1 and 2? Quelle surprise . . . Not a big believer in trade deadline acquisitions tilting the tables. Ryan O’Reilly has me believing differently . . . All the hype (as only Toronto can summon) surrounding young Matthew Knies is seemingly bang on. The kid can play. Period . . . Knies has been on the ice for both OT winners this series . . . Ottawa 67’s bowed out to Peterborough Monday in Game 6 of the second round. The good news is they’ll be an even tougher out next season. Build-build-build, boys. 


Photo: Courtesy CTV.ca