Game 70: When hope goes into cardiac arrest
Hope For The 2010-2011 Season: October 7-March 14
Good evening, forlorn and despondent Leafs Nation.
I would love to tell you the magnificent poor bastards went down swinging tonight. I would love to say this was one for the ages, an epic war in which they fought tooth-and-nail for every inch of ice.
But that would be a lie.
The sad truth is, the Leafs didn't even fight this one follicle-and-pinkie. They arrived late for battle, fired blanks on the few chances they had and then, once again, fell asleep in foxholes as the enemy stormed the net in wave after wave of uncontested attack.
After a season of one thousand cuts, a million jabs from syringes filled with toxic disappointment, this one somehow felt different. It really hurt. It sliced an artery. It warped the space-time continuum and stopped the beating heart of hope, which is now flat-lining on a life support machine, awaiting either a resurrection miracle or last rites.
Can the Leafs bounce back? Mathematically speaking, it's possible. Stranger things have happened. Right? I mean, there are occasional reports of alien abductions. You or I could win the lottery this weekend. Someone, somewhere, must have witnessed a dolphin jumping out of the water in a top hat and leotard, defying gravity and remaining airborne while humming the Brandenburg concertos.
Alas, no. Even if the sunniest optimist was to glance at the numbers through the rosiest of glasses, he would not be encouraged by what he sees after this brutally lopsided 6-2 kick to the groin. And beyond the numbers, beyond the stats and historical probability, there is another vexing concern that crystallized on this solemn evening: The race may continue but the Leafs are getting winded just as the teams around them are catching a second breath.
The on-again, off-again offense was mostly locked in the "off" position. And since I don't have any ulcer medicine in the house, let's not talk about defensive coverage, the power play or the expression on Ron Wilson's face near the end that said it all.
I think maybe I'll retire The Most Important Game Of The Season™ business. Instead, let's just call Wednesday's game against Carolina A Potentially Intriguing Twelfth Last Game Of The Season For This Tired Bunch Of Hope Killers.
Let's defer to reality and recalibrate expectations accordingly.
Until it's official, of course, I shall sit dutifully by the hospital bedside, stroking the hand of hope and trying not to think about all the goddamn points lost in November and December. It's agonizing to retrace steps and cherrypick points here or there, points they all but gave away through incompetence and mediocrity.
But I don't feel like second-guessing anyone or anything because, really, what's the point? These guys have given it all they have this calendar year. They just have nothing left to give. Reinforcements are needed; the cavalry is not yet upon us.
To be a Leaf fan is to be at the eternal mercy of twin realities: 1. Disappointment is inevitable. 2. Faith will carry us forward.
Hope for another season may have died this evening. But it will return. It always does.
PHOTO: DARREN CALABRESE/CANADIAN PRESS