Game 72: Leafs change mind, dive into coffin
What a difference a day makes. It's a cliché but that is truly the subtext of this up-and-down, topsy-turvy, love-hate season.
One day: Euphoria. The next: Facepalm. One day, we believe. The next, we are muttering profanities and shaking our heads with disbelief.
And so, in the grand scheme of things, last night's 4-0 spine-cracking loss in Florida was not really a shock. Instead, it was more proof we've been watching two teams all year long. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Good Leafs and The Bad Leafs. The Guys Who Care and The Guys Who Do Not.
On Wednesday night against Carolina, it was The Good Leafs. They played with intensity and focus. They created a playoff atmosphere. They hustled and battled and clearly gave a damn.
Last night, by contrast, The Bad Leafs emerged from the Florida swamplands, stumbling around with groggy indifference and blurred vision. They created a preseason atmosphere. They proceeded to sleepwalk through a game they could not afford to lose.
Was James Reimer injured? Was he exposed to Ebola at the airport? Was there an abduction plot? Did the Leafs receive an anonymous tip that morning saying an assassin was en route to the BankAtlantic Center and they should protect Reimer by keeping him off the ice and even off the bench?
I have no idea.
All I know is a day after Ron Wilson said he'd have to be an "idiot" to not start Reimer, a day after he said the kid was not tired, there was no sign of the goalie who stopped 36 of 37 shots against Carolina.
Instead, this critical game was casually tossed into the hands and wonky groin belonging to one J.S. Giguere. Given how the team plays in front of Reimer, given the momentum and emotional high created on Wednesday, this decision was beyond baffling.
Don't misunderstand. Giguere was not solely or strictly responsible for what happened. The poor guy was left on his own. He tended net as his teammates downed warm glasses of milk and snoozed under a blanket.
They didn't score a single goal. They didn't even threaten to score a single goal. So even if Giguere stopped every shot, we'd still be in a shootout this morning.
But here's the thing: By not starting Reimer, Wilson inadvertently sent a very dangerous message to all involved.
To Florida, the message was: "We're looking past this one and giving our guy a rest. You guys are already out of the race and you're decimated with injuries and 50 per cent of your roster is still wearing AHL underwear. So we think this should be a relatively easy game."
To his players, the message was: "I know you guys have momentum and are on an emotional high. I know you play so much better in front of Reims. I know he gives you confidence. But let's just stick to our long-standing plan of giving Jiggy a start on this road trip and hope for the best, okay?"
To fans, the message was: "Whatever."
As I say, beyond baffling.
Once again, from everyone here at ALF B headquarters, thank you for joining us this season. Soon, the lights will be turned on and you will find marked exits to your left and to your right. Feel free to grab a lemon square and bottle of vodka on your way out. Doctors will be on hand to examine you for concussion symptoms caused by so many kicks to the head.
Please watch your step and enjoy the springtime sunshine.
You know, with just over five minutes left in the third last night, they started playing "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. It was the most appropriate song at the most appropriate time this entire season.