Time now for a quick inventory of some small trends and observations as we get set for a crucial Game 4 tonight at the ACC. Of course every game going forward will no doubt qualify as the biggest of the season but let’s get real: if the Leafs go down 3-1 tonight, the chances of them winning the series goes from slim to virtually none. Tie it up on the other hand and it becomes a best of three where the odds aren’t overwhelmingly in favour of the team with home ice advantage. So just win baby!
Observation 1: Boston’s David Krejci is not Sydney Crosby as some of the sports media is making him out to be. Yes he has amassed a quiet eight points and with linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton give the Bruins a legitimately strong first line. But let’s put things in perspective: these guys disappeared for long stretches during the regular season and we know it’s the playoffs and Boston’s apparently found that magical switch that suddenly turns everyone into super hockey players. Here’s betting they won’t quite be as productive tonight. Hey, if David Krejci is that great, we would’ve have heard more about him by now.
Observation 2: Let’s just say ditto for Jaromir Jagr. C’mon, the guy’s 41. Anyone can string together a good game or two at that age but so much ink is being spilled on this apparent ageless wonder you might be convinced he’s found the fountain of youth when he and Mario were tearing up the NHL. He’s not. At his age, expect the occasional strong game as in Game 3; for him to deliver consistently at that level is unrealistic.
Observation 3: My newest jargony term I’ve grown to loathe in these playoffs is “puck management.” A very professional, business-like buzzword used to describe the functioning of large organizations now being applied to who has possession of a hockey puck. Good grief. I wonder if there will be “upper puck management” or maybe “middle puck management” as the layers of coach-speak infiltrate the game. It’s a puck, guys. It’s small, moves blindingly fast at times and is subject to strange deflections, bounces and ice imperfections, not to mention the frequent unintentional wiffs by players — all of which make said management of the disc inherently difficult to manage. In a typical game, a puck changes hands more frequently than Madonna changes concert outfits. Who knows? Puck management may one day occupy the same revered status as “active sticks.” We can only hope.
Observation 4: It was great to see Leafs fans gather by the thousands in Maple Leafs Square and form a true “nation.” No doubt the momentum and excitement will be there again for Game 4 tonight. If there was only a way to transport that enthusiasm inside the ACC where it’s really needed. Oh wait, tickets are going for $1,000 you say? Never mind. The paying customer — and we do mean paying — is entitled to do what he or she wants.
But win or lose, let’s keep it good natured and not let things descend into some kind of hooligan stupidity like what happened to our friends on the west coast. Toronto desperately needs the good vibe of this playoff buzz. It doesn’t need another reason to stain its reputation.