Keeping The Faith When Reality Starts Throwing Punches
It's been a rough couple of days here inside ALF B headquarters: Gloomy faces. Panicky thoughts. Free-floating anxiety.
After Saturday's loss in Philadelphia – the third straight game without a win – I sat in the video room with an old friend and we analyzed tape. I was looking for moments upon which I might "cast an optimistic eye."
There were none.
By about 3 a.m., after hundreds of pauses and rewinds, my retinas conspired with my long-term memory to play tricks on me. Was that Dion Phaneuf mishandling the puck or... Gary Nylund? Was that Tyler Bozak floating around the neutral zone in a comatose state or… Marian Stastny?
After winning their first four games and launching expectations into the stratosphere, the Leafs returned to Planet Earth last week and burned up on re-entry. It was like the movie Awakenings, the part where the experimental drugs stop working and Robert De Niro regresses to baseline.
If you missed Game 6 against New York or Game 7 in Philly – maybe you were lucky enough to be in a hostage situation or trapped under heavy machinery – I can now recap both with pictures:
GAME 7: THE GLAZED TURNOVER
So is it over before it started? Did we overestimate this team based on their first four games? Or are we overreacting to the last three?
With less than 10 per cent of the season done, the answer is probably "both." But here's the thing: The team is not freaking out so neither should we.
Being a Leafs fan can be so exhausting.
The bandwagon is like a rush hour bus. People are always pushing to jump on and off at every stop. When things are good, you can't get a seat. When they're bad, your arrival time is delayed and you find yourself sitting next to someone who is crunching loudly on carrots while muttering about Aki Berg.
Me, I refuse to be a part of this bipolar hysteria!
If the Leafs win tomorrow night against Florida, they will have a 5-2-1 record. Compare this to last season's 0-7-1 start. It is a dramatic improvement.
Yes, there are reasons to be concerned. No, this concern should not be unreasonable.
It's Monday morning, people. A new week is upon us. Let's forget the last one. Let's keep perspective and remember we are in this for the long haul and not the short bursts of reactionary emotion, good or bad.
Here are 10 Affirmations to get you through the day. Stand in front of a mirror, place your hand over your chest and repeat these words:
1. The Leafs are tied for first in the Northeast Division.
2. The Leafs are four points out of first place overall.
3. Phil Kessel has as many goals as Sidney Crosby... and so does Clarke MacArthur!
4. The Leafs have winning records at home and on the road.
5. The Leafs have the NHL’s second-best record when they outshoot their opponents
6. Mikhail Grabovski is tied for 15th place in +/- leaders.
7. The Leafs will start scoring on the power play.
8. The Leafs have the eight best penalty killing in the league.
9. The Leafs want to win.
10. And if nothing else... the Leafs have some cap room.
PHOTO: H. RUMPH JR/ASSOCIATED PRESS