Game Day: One weird dream and four Leaf questions
Are you ready for The Most Important Game Of The Season™?
I know, right? This is getting exhausting. Thrilling but bloody exhausting.
I think the mix of blinding hope, scoreboard fretting, statistical roundhouse kicks to the gut and then more blinding hope has finally stormed my subconscious.
I had the weirdest dream last night.
My wife and I ventured into Real Sports for dinner. Our server was wearing a helmet and full-cage, which couldn't conceal his gaunt cheekbones and dead eyes. After he took our drink order, I leaned toward my wife and whispered, "I think that's Ryan Miller."
Before I could explain, he returned with my martini, which was served inside a silver goblet. Instead of olives, as I had requested, it was garnished with three shrunken heads – Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur!
"I'm going to be sick!" I said, running toward the exit
"Is there a problem, sir?" asked Miller, peeling off his helmet and face to reveal John Tortorella.
But when I stumbled through the front door to York Street, I was suddenly naked and on the ice at the ACC. Hoofheartz and TG77 were standing next to a blue Zamboni that was tricked-out with massive speakers.
They started blasting "Kung Fu Fighting." I stood at centre ice, sobbing and covering my genitals, as the crowd laughed and pelted me with waffles.
When I tried to run away, Don Cherry lassoed me with a tartan rope.
"Let me go!" I screamed.
"Shut your mouth or MacLean will work you over with his nunchucks!" hissed Grapes.
Then suddenly I was imprisoned inside a giant green hat, where I was forced to watch a video loop of Carlton the Bear making out with my wife inside the kitchen of Real Sports as Phil Kessel fried an omelette in the background.
The Leafs battle Tampa tonight in a – wait for it – must-win game. Good luck underwear? Check. Lemon squares? Check. Let's hope I only need the first.
Despite beating Buffalo on Saturday with a heroic third period, the magnificent bastards lost ground over the next 24 hours. Thanks to weekend wins by the Rangers and Sabres, the gap is back to six points. (Cue the sneering probability police.)
But instead of just focusing on tonight's game, here are four questions for the home stretch:
The enforcer has been out since January 20, when he banged his head on the ice during a scrap with Anaheim's George Parros. It was the second time this season Orr has suffered head trauma, the first caused by the right fist of Pittsburgh's Deryk Engelland during a fight in October.
Orr could be cleared to return as early as this week. But should he play and risk another injury that could jeopardize his career? Do the Leafs need an enforcer at this stage of the season, when fighting is not as much of a factor? Or should they continue to go with the line-up that's surged since the All-Star break?
How much longer can the Leafs dress only six defenders? Especially when two of those defenders – Mike Komisarek and Brett Lebda – are playing less than 10 minutes a night, as each did against Buffalo?
Hang on. Breaking news means i t looks like the answer to this question is Matt Lashoff.
As long as the team is still blinding us with hope, James Reimer can and should start each and every game. He can handle the mental pressure and the physical demands. He wants this.
But carrying three goalies is fraught with logistical concerns, including practice time, reduced roster room and even the impact on team chemistry. (Nick Kypreos once observed that having three goalies in the room and during travel was like having an ex-girlfriend hanging around at all hours.)
How can the Leafs make sure Gustavsson still feels like he belongs in their world when he's barely orbiting it right now? What long-term impact will this season have on his development and feelings toward the team?
I know we've hammered this question all season long – actually longer. But the more we hammer, the more crooked it gets.
There's no question the quote-unquote man advantage has cost this team points. Why can't it get on track, or at the very least, stay on track? With four 20-goal scorers in the line-up, there is no logical reason for the PP to be ranked 24.
Is putting Tim Brent on the point really the only solution? Really?
And with that, I shall resume work on my Steven Stamkos voodoo doll. If you see Carlton the Bear, please tell him to stay the hell away from my wife.
WARNING: Some language in this video is NSFW.