Taking a T/O With BT—The Toronto Maple Leafs Long Ride on the Losing Side

xx yySenior Writer IOctober 27, 2009

TORONTO - FEBRUARY 21:  Matt Stajan #14 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates during the game against the Vancouver Canucks at Air Canada Centre on February 21, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Most times we'd start with something profound. Perhaps a quote, or a line weighed down by cliches, alliteration, or metaphors.

How about this:

It's about [expletive ] time.

For the past three and a half weeks, its been all about "the sky is falling" and "woe is us" in Leafs' Nation. And with good reason: We didn't expect the team to be breaking any wins records or setting the mark for scoring proficiency, but we didn't expect that to happen either.

0-7-1? No one deserves that. Not even Mike Keenan.

No wins. One point. Eight games. Even someone stuck in grade five math can tell you that's a terrible ratio.

That same fifth grader could probably tell you that you aren't going to win many games without a healthy goalie when you score two or fewer goals in six straight.

He (or she) may even be able to beat the Leafs at dodgeball—but seeing as schools have yet to keep formal statistics on that sport, there's no actual proof.

What's even worse—if it gets worse than losing to that ten-year old at dodgeball—was that they had owned a lead for all of six minutes this season.

You spend an hour of your life per day waiting in line. It takes at least 10 minutes to make Kraft Dinner (or Hamburger Helper for the Americans in class today). Bill Simmons' articles are even measured in "lengths of time spent in washroom"—you better believe those are longer than six minutes.

Essentially, six minutes is not a long time. And for a professional sports organization to play eight games and only own a lead for that long—unacceptable.

But here's the good news: It's all changed now.

Granted, there's no guarantee that the Leafs will win again this week. Hell, they may not even win their next game, but that all important "first win" is on the board.

Immediately a ton of pressure is lifted.

Suddenly the question doesn't become "when are you going to win?" but "when are you going to win NEXT?". See? That NEXT in there signifies that they've won before. Don't you feel better now?

Now try this on for size: 1-7-1. Not great, but getting better.

On top of that, a team that didn't have life, that needed (in the words of Brian Burke) "a puck to go in off of someone's ass" got exactly that.

For once, they weren't the ones leading the parade to the penalty box. They were getting athletic, cross-crease play out of their goalie (In fact, they even got saves—25 of them!) and they weren't giving in and slouching during the action.

A week ago, if a puck was dumped out of the offensive zone on a 5-on-3, there's no guarantee that the Leafs would drive the zone again. Last night? They not only got the puck back in, but they scored.

The forwards played with jam. They went to the net looking for rebounds and looking to cause havoc, while those with the puck concentrated on one thing: getting it to the net.

The defense did it's job. While it wasn't spectacular (and there were probably more than a few fans holding their breath when Corey Perry made it 6-3), they got the job done.

And that's all anyone was asking. Just get one. We only need one.

Watching that last night...it was refreshing. Maybe it was all of the pent-up frustrations of the past few weeks, maybe it was stress, or maybe just that it's so hard to enjoy something amidst turmoil, but last night took me back to what hockey used to be like.

I started out worried and nervous about what would happen. A puck would roll off the end of someone's stick and it was the end of the world. But then, the players started to play like they were actually having fun. They'd score a goal and they'd smile. It was as if it was a game all over again.

And that's how I treated it.

I moaned at the lows, but I yelled and screamed—and even jumped up and down—at the ups. Probably not the best choice in an Eastern Time Zone during a West Coast game, but hey—we get one warning on noise violations.

For a night, hockey was fun to watch, which is all I needed.

The Leafs have no quick fix. It's not just going to be Phil Kessel and it's not just Jonas Gustavsson. Long-term it has to be a team-effort.

But for one night, all of the problems went away. It was a win. It was high-scoring and fun. And if they're only going to win once a month but I'll feel like this after? I can accept that.

In other words: don't get ahead of ourselves Leafs' fans. Baby steps.

Baby steps.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report, and a lead writer for Hockey 54—the Face of the Game . If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile or email him at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. Also, be sure to check out all of his previous work in his archives .


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