BOSTON, MASS., United States (DE) – The Toronto Maple Leafs made history Monday night, by inexplicably blowing a 4 – 1 lead with 10 minutes to play in Game 7 versus the Boston Bruins. Like stabbing oneself in the penis with a broken 1970’s-style, solid-glass ashtray after a bad night of drinking, the Leafs hit the self-destruct button and effectively tossed what had become a great bounce-back season right down the toilet.
“Can somebody please explain to me what the f*ck just happened?”, a stunned and obviously inebriated Leafs Head Coach, Randy Carlyle, grunted as he stumbled his way to the podium for the post-game presser. “I blame myself ” Carlyle admitted when asked who should be held accountable, “In retrospect the defense pairing of Jean Van de Velde and Bill Buckner was a bad choice.”
Yes, just when you thought a franchise couldn’t suck any harder, the Toronto Maple Leafs added bitter, gut-wrenching humiliation to it’s long and prolific tradition of futility and failure. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in new and evermore creative ways is now becoming the hallmark of the most hated franchise in the history of the sporting Universe. The club’s sickly sweet and total bullshit slogan, “The passion that unites us all…” serves as a constant reminder of the unmitigated hubris of the evil corporate gangsters who have taken an under-performing but once-loveable club and turned it into a league-wide joke.
I’d give you a recap of the game but I’ve blocked it all out. A benevolent combination of a massive scotch-whiskey drunk and large quantities of pharmaceutical grade synthetic heroine has thankfully wiped my psychological slate clean of much of the residue of the match. So let’s not look back…otherwise I might actually have to face extradition charges and appear in a Massachusetts court of law. Instead let’s work in the realm of the hypothetical today and examine what might have been…or better yet, what I would have done.
For Milk Johnson it all comes down to two simple rules when protecting a lead with less than a minute to play: don’t be a friggin’ candy-ass and always, always! use your stick liberally.
Third periods in this saddest of all playoff series, have long since melted and blurred into one big collective Leaf implosion, with an array of lost draws and too many anxious giveaways. So I’m ball-parking when I say it was Game 5 when the Leafs, having played the entire third period in their own zone, while being bitch-slapped and outworked by even the smallest and most European of the Bruins, finally took a hard penalty. Now short one man on the ice, Leaf fans everywhere went hard to the Valium and sprinted for the liquor cabinet, in full expectation of total collapse…but it didn’t happen. The penalty actually helped the Leafs, because now, instead of panicky hard-arounds and failed flip outs to avoid icing calls, the Leafs were able to safely send the puck the full length of the ice and run the clock. No icing, no lost face-offs and the clock keeps ticking.
Fast-forward to 22 seconds left in Game 7 and a tenuous one-goal Leaf lead. Big Zdeno Chara a.k.a. Man-Mountain Dean, casually parks his 7-foot-2 frame in front of the Leaf goal. Now, think back to Milk Johnson’s two simple rules for protecting a lead. Then think back to the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series…John Ferguson. Bobby Clarke…a winning game-plan beginning to take shape.
Let’s scenario this out: the big ugly sonnofab*tch Chara is in front of the net with 22 seconds left, the leafs can’t clear the zone and goaltender James Reimer cannot see around the lumbering mutant infringing on his crease. What Mssr’s Ferguson and Clarke would propose, is for Mr. Reimer, to deliver a huge Billy Smith-style, double-fisted hack to the back of Chara’s unprotected ankle, just above his skate. When executed properly and with the correct amount of force, the ankle will surely break. Almost as good as an empty net goal at this point and infinitely more satisfying.
With this one stroke of the axe you’ve accomplished 3 very important things 1) Chara is lying on the ice writhing in pain and grabbing at his badly fractured ankle like an Italian soccer player – a fortunate bi-product of this situation is that the entire bottom half of the net is now covered by Chara’s hulking carcass. 2) There is a general confusion which siphons more time off the clock while the Bruins decide whether to retaliate with force, attempt to score a goal or phone in for a very large ambulance. 3) A melee ensues – van Reimsdyk squares off with Lucic, Boychuck loses his shit on Grabovski…Jagr wets his pants.
When the dust settles, the blood is scraped off the playing surface and the refs have regained control over the increasingly savage proceedings, check out the new and fantastic paradigm at ice level: you’ve got about 15 seconds on the clock, Milan Lucic in the box for fighting, Jaromir Jagr whimpering in the corner like a twelve-year-old girl and Zdeno Chara en route to the nearest hospital. Final score: 4 – 3 Leafs.
Milk Johnson for Dateline Earth Sports.