Weeks ago, Joffrey Lupul said the Leafs should shift their focus and look ahead in the standings instead of anxiously looking over their back. It was good advice and a reassuring sign of leadership for fans who desperately hoped this team had turned a corner. Well, after that the Leafs lost 9 of the next 10 games, but still Lupul’s advice was good. So let’s take it one step further: let’s look past their 19 remaining games to see what life will be like in April when the Leafs are in the playoffs.
Thankfully this doesn’t take any imagination, as from experience we know that only one thing happens in every Leafs post-season: to look forward is to look back.
Leaf Playoffs 2012:
After days of freaking out, sporadic shakes, and ignoring life’s responsibilities in order to mentally prepare for playoffs, it’s finally game day against the senators. You watch all pre-game commentary even though experts have had nothing new to talk about for days. Normally a rational person, you’ve suddenly and unconsciously adopted several bizarre superstitions. You eat some delicious burgers, but overall life around you disappears; there is only the game and it’s still not on. Oh god, they’re dropping the puck. Oh god oh god oh god.
WE KILLED THEM! GOD THE sENS ARE CHEAP! WE MIGHT GO ALL THE WAY THIS YEAR! Next two of three games are at home. Ahh, things look good and optimism abounds. The day after the game, you’re anxious and terrified. It’s puzzling that all around you, parents, teachers, and similar adults insist on continuing their lives with the unexplainable expectation that you will too, as if there wasn’t any hockey on at all.
It’s game day. You’re nervous and hungry for senator blood. After chicken wings and pizza, Bob McKenzie and others move their mouth but none of it makes sense. The game’s about to start. We’re gonna kill them we’re gonna kill them we’re gonna kill them.
STINKING RATS! OFFSIDE ON THE WINNER! FILTHY CHEATS! Typical. Yes, the Leafs could have used a goal, having lost 5-0. A split on the road. I can live with that. The next day you and your friends recount the incompetent refs, senator sins, and other miscellaneous abominations, each one a monumental scandal nobody else outside your group seemed to noticed. One sleep ‘til game three. You’re so overcome with anticipation and terror you could just rip out your hair and puke.
Naturally, after the highs and lows of five games and the commensurate chicken wings, burgers and pizza, the sens show their true colours and collapse, the ignominy marked by horrendous goaltending, some bizarre miscues that reflect terribly on the sens as both a hockey team and people in life, and especially the disappearance of certain key Swedish senators, or, more aptly put, there’s a hilarious and blazing spotlight on the Swedes’ conspicuous failure to merely appear after he guaranteed success and after flagrantly trouncing upon the unwritten player’s code, to say nothing of the written one. So, to Yonge Street, where the drunk and sober are indistinguishable but windows and cars remain intact, unlike in some cities—the expected behaviour during the well-earned spontaneous parade we’ve all been waiting for.
The days between playoff rounds are characterized by soaring pride, robust glee, and speculative anxiety, and there’s a total departure from the state of consciousness you had before playoffs started. It’s a new series, and Philly is going to be hard—they’re not pathetic wimps.
The daily routine during the series takes on the same shape as the last, only with more relentless gloom and foreboding; we’re getting dramatically outshot again, but we’re not getting shutouts. Optimism is difficult, but you work hard to totally divorce yourself from reality. Still, a debilitating feeling that you can’t shake off day or night keeps creeping in. Mercifully it’s over when the Flyers clinch the series in overtime after the Leafs miraculously tied the game in the final seconds—the greatest feat in 40 years.
Oh, elimination pain! The fog lifts and suddenly life has things to do. People in your life express sympathy, but they seem happy to have you back. You hold this against them—they’re not committed. It’s impossible to process that your season is done, as your heart yearns to experience once more the restless anxiety and sheer terror of playoffs, but all that’s left is misery and a shame made more acute with the knowledge that redemption has to wait until playoffs next year. Oh, we’ll get ‘em next year!