Game 33: The Leafs give us another lump of coal for Christmas
When I was a kid, a family friend gave us the same gift every year.
Birthdays, Easter, Christmas – it didn't matter. This sweet but odd fellow would arrive with a shoddily wrapped jigsaw puzzle and my brothers and I would pretend to be surprised and overjoyed, even though we were neither.
All were disappointing.
I was reminded of those childhood puzzles tonight while watching a 20-piece puzzle that will never quite fit together titled, "The 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs."
This was the last game until Christmas. This was their last chance to give us a holiday gift to remember, or at the very least, a gift we wouldn't try to forget by swallowing arsenic and running headlong into the closest wall.
So let's peak inside tonight's shoddily wrapped present to see...
Oh, look! Wow! It's a gift assortment!
* Another slow start!
* Two goals against in 28 seconds before the game is three minutes old!
* Two more goals against in less than two minutes in the third!
* Slivers of half-decent cubic zirconia encrusted between thick slabs of bumbling mediocrity!
* A doomed, last-ditch surge that would ignite pathetic hopes for a comeback – why do they keep shopping at Toys R Us? – but soon be extinguished by the twin realities of time and space!
* Two goals by a former Leaf, in this case, Freddy Modin.
* A night when every single Leaf skater except Colton Orr was a minus on the +/- Richter scale.
Thanks, you guys! But you shouldn't have. No, really. You shouldn't have because you've already given us this assortment of goodies. In fact, you keep giving it to us week after week after godforsaken week.
The first period tonight was sponsored by Toyota's "Best Wrap-Up Ever" event, which seemed grimly ironic. Mind you, after 20 minutes it was still only 2-0 Atlanta and not, say, 5-1 Atlanta as it was at 4:19 of the third when Jonas Gustavsson was yanked and the waffles began to rain down inside the ACC.
As the ice was cleaned of breakfast debris, as the crowd closed their eyes shut and clicked their heels and imagined they were somewhere else, Ron Wilson wobbled behind the bench with a faraway expression that silently screamed: Never mind those damn waffles! Someone in the upper bowl, please, hit me with a giant watermelon! Knock me unconscious! Please!
What can you say at this point? What can you do? What can you think?
With Mike Palmateer and Doug Gilmour both watching with barely concealed shame – "Me? No, sorry, kid. I'm not Doug Gilmour. Never played for this organization" – this was yet another one of those games that makes Leaf fans long for a more fulfilling pastime, such as cultivating rutabagas or befriending stray animals.
I especially liked the moment in the first when Greg Millen observed: "This could be embarrassing" for the Leafs when it was "only" two-zip.
The worst part? It's the team that is naughty. We're nice. It's the team that starts games with the intensity and focus of a blind albino rat on crack. We're just dazed.
It's the team that is drifting aimlessly until it's too late, always too late. It's the team that needs to get seriously bitch-slapped by a gang of Santa's toughest thug-elves.
We, the fans, did not deserve a lump of coal for Christmas. You know what? We did not deserve most of the gifts we've received this season. But what can we do? These magnificent poor Leaf bastards, they just keep giving them to us.