Isn’t it always the way. You wait nine years, bursting with anticipation and your team lets you down.
The Leafs put in a strong effort overall. As coach Randy Carlyle keeps harping on, it was turnovers that really were the difference in this game — two to be precise. A smart play by 41-year old Jaromir Jagr who stole the puck off Ryan O’Byrne and quickly fed it to Rich Peverley gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead. But the real back-breaker was Kessel’s giveaway in the second at the Leafs blueline that Daniel Paille beat James Reimer on for a short-handed goal left the Leafs trailing 4-1, taking the buzz out of the hometown crowd.
To anyone watching the game, it wasn’t a repeat of the Leafs hapless 4-1 opening loss to the Bruins despite the 5-2 outcome. It was a couple of miscues that Boston pounced on and made the Leafs pay. Hey, sometimes you get the breaks, sometimes you don’t. Not that Tuukka Rask played anything less than stellar but he should’ve thanked the two goal posts the Leafs hit that harmlessly deflected the rubber the right way for him. A game of inches as they say.
Surprisingly, Toronto outshot the Bruins 47-38 — a season high — and it came during a playoff game against the Boston Bruins for pete’s sake. In the third down three, Toronto got 18 pucks on net to the Bruins six. So while they didn’t manage to capitalize, it’s a good sign. The Bruins have that vaunted depth so talked about where they can roll out four lines and it’s making life tough for the Toronto defence. Their offence is also rounding into form, especially David Krejci who quietly already has eight points in this series. Milan Lucic also seems to be shaking off a season-long slump while Jagr is displaying flashes of his old self with masterful puck control in the Leafs end.
But back to the underlying story — the pre-game atmosphere around the Air Canada Centre was giddy, a festival atmosphere with several thousand turning Maple Leafs Square into a sea of Blue and White . The mixture of sun, celebration and anticipation came through loud and clear on the gigantic video board and on the HNIC broadcast. It was reminiscent of the 2011 Vancouver fan frenzy during their playoff run.
Most fans were just happy to be there and be part of the first playoff game in nine years in Toronto. Winning a game at home would just be a bonus to the experience of coming together as Leafs Nation when it really matters. They were disappointed the home side didn’t prevail but they get at least one more chance Wednesday in Game 4 to perhaps supply that X-factor and get back in this thing.