Game 5: Celebrating the value of entertainment
You can look at last night's result in two ways: 1. The Leafs winning streak ended. 2. The Leafs point streak continued.
Me, I'm going with No. 2.
Hockey can be a game of lucky breaks. And last night, the Leafs didn't get any. They outshot the Islanders 30-20. They controlled the play for much of the game, especially the second half. They had more scoring chances, better scoring chances. They had a goal in the second that was waved off. And they celebrated a phantom goal in the third that, upon video review, never crossed the line.
Did they deserve to win? Yes. But as Ron Wilson observed: "What are you going to do?"
Well, for starters, the coach may want to notify Canadian border officials and tell them to be on the lookout for 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson.
The Islander goalie keeps smuggling precious points out of the country. He's also running an illegal shot-stopping sweatshop in the ACC.
Last season in 3 games against Toronto, Roloson stopped 116 of 123 shots. Last night, several of his 29 stops were of the spectacular variety. So thanks to Roloson and some unlucky breaks, the Leafs lost 2-1 in overtime when they could have won 4-1 in regulation time.
But let's not dwell on the game.
It's a long season and Leaf fans, understandably prone to gloom and microscopic analysis, deserve a break from the perennial soul-searching that follows a loss or non-win.
Instead, let's salute the Leafs for returning a precious commodity to this market after it vanished without a trace years ago: Entertainment value.
There was a time, an extended and depressing time, in which it was possible to watch an entire Leafs game while flipping through magazines or catching up on your email. For interminable stretches, the play was choppy. There was a lot of dumping and even more pointless chasing.
This team skates, passes and hits with authentic conviction. They are not only making plays, they are making beautiful plays. To watch the Leafs, at long last, is to watch a team that competes and fights for every inch of the ice, consequences be damned.
One morning, as we sat in his office, Brian Burke explained it this way:
"We are fun to watch, even when we lose. We provide entertainment value. It's part of the plan. It's one of my pillars. We're not going to win every game, we know that. But we want to justify the price of the ticket."
For this alone, the man deserves a standing ovation.
Bring on the Rangers.
PHOTO: FRANK GUNN/CANADIAN PRESS