Game 25: Someone please call Morpheus
I won't lie to you. I haven't been this confused since watching The Matrix.
Is reality an ugly 5-0 loss to Edmonton on Thursday? Or is reality tonight's thrilling 3-2 victory against Boston? Is reality before this game or after?
An exchange from the movie:
Neo: "Why do my eyes hurt?"
Morpheus: "You've never used them before."
Resilience. Character. Heart.
This is what our eyes, stinging with improbable joy, witnessed tonight as the Leafs made like Keanu Reeves in that epic fight scene with Agent Smith.
You think we're dead? Well, then – dropkick to the chest – it's time for Kris Versteeg to tie the game with 42 seconds left in the third. You think Tim Thomas is unbeatable? Well, then – a flurry of uppercuts to the head – it's time for Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel to score in a shootout.
I know, I know. Really. I know.
This is just one win. We should not get carried away after one win and start twirling around on our reality-bending fight sticks.
But here's the thing: This one win felt momentous in a way one wins rarely do. It felt like the kind of game a young team cites later in the season as, "The Turning Point." It felt like there still may be time for the Leafs and, by extension, for us.
It was as if God himself suddenly peered into the ACC and said: "Enough! I will give the Leafs a 6-on-4 advantage in the dying seconds! I will use a mysterious force to propel Thomas backwards into his own net on the winning Kessel shot! I will stoke a fire in Colby Armstrong's belly! I will do whatever it takes to give these poor bastards a victory they so justly deserve after so much heartache and bad luck!"
And who could blame them?
Boston had never lost a game this season after scoring first – as they did tonight. Zdeno Chara, one of the few people on this planet who can clean his eaves without a ladder, towered next to Kessel every shift. Thomas, the best goaltender in the NHL, made at least six saves that prompted me to stand and yell: "Are you (bleep) kidding me?"
Against these ridiculous odds, against all conventional wisdom, the Leafs refused to sit through another lesson in the school of hard knocks. So they slammed down their textbooks, escaped through a fire exit and fled into a parallel universe in their black trench coats.
Now we're all standing outside in the disorienting, Matrix-like rain and wondering: What comes next?