I'll spare you the details, but like many Torontonians, I've been rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs since I discovered the joy of sport as a young man. When we swept Chicago in three (that's right kids, we could sweep in three back then), I celebrated like we'd won the cup. I can still taste that Diet Coke.
Speaking of the cup, Lord Stanley's mug is merely the stuff of history books as far as I'm concerned. I wasn't born the last time we won it all, and we haven't even been back to the finals since '67. But every year, hope springs eternal, because in sports you just never know.
Anything can happen, but it seems the needle keeps skipping with regards to my Maple Leafs. Here's a blog entry I wrote about the last time the Leafs win a playoff series. This was over 19 years ago.
I would like to bottle this euphoric feeling I have right now in order to preserve it for moments in the future I'm feeling less joyous. What a fantastic night. For the fourth time in five years, the Ottawa Senators are going home early from the Stanley Cup playoffs thanks to my beloved Maple Leafs. Ottawa is 0-4 in series against Toronto and 0-4 in Game 7s overall.
Lest we forget Daniel Alfredsson's promise to win this series tonight at the ACC. Alfredsson, like the rest of his teammates, were all but invisible tonight. They have proven time and time again that they aren't built for the playoffs and can't win when it matters most. At the trade deadline, there was much speculation the Senators would upgrade between the pipes as Patrick Lalime was showing himself to be rather inconsistent. Staying with Lalime would prove to be their downfall. Tonight, in the most important game of the season, Lalime was horrible while Maple Leaf goaltender Eddie Belfour shone bright. Belfour was brilliant throughout the series and is the biggest reason I'm sitting here right now with a huge smile on my face.
Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!
Toronto wins series 4-3
Little did I know that euphoric feeling would elude me for 19 years (and counting!). When we beat the Sens in game 7 back in 2004, I had one kid. Yesterday, when we gathered to watch the Leafs vs. Lightning in game seven, I was sitting with my four kids. That means my soon-to-be 18 year old has never been alive for a Maple Leafs playoff round win. That's incredible, especially considering this recent Leafs team is pretty damn good.
And that's the sticky wicket. It's a good Leafs team, built right, but it's the same result. Another first round exit. For the fifth year in a row, we lost a winner-take-all game in the first round. Well, technically that game five loss to Columbus wasn't even the first round, but you know what I mean. Like Charlie Brown kicking the football, every year I tune in to see if this is the year.... and every year, it seems, I go to bed thinking it's déjà vu all over again.
But I'm used to this... it took me about five minutes to move on and look toward next year. Because you never know... next season could be ours.