The Bruins And Leafs Collide Again In The Playoffs But This Time I'm Not Puking

phil kessel

Disclaimer: this blog will be wildly unpopular in the Barstool community, but that’s not really deviating from the norm.

It’s that time of the season where the NHL playoffs are finally upon us and all is right in the world (even non-hockey people are sort of into hockey = huge win), including a re-match of the infamous 2013 1st round playoff clash between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. As the lone Canadian at Barstool HQ, not to mention a Toronto native, it would be remiss not to mention the other side of the tale – and one that left Leafs fans terrorized for years to come (and in my case, puking).

Game 7. Up 4-1 with 10 minutes remaining in the 3rd. This is a statement that will haunt me for the rest of my life. This is a statement that will haunt every Leafs fan for their rest of their lives. I vividly remember watching Game 7 at the Press Box Sports Bar in Regina, Saskatchewan – a game that after going down 3-1 in the series, the Leafs had no business being in. But, the Buds had rallied back two games, it was April, it was playoffs, and I was sitting in the heart of Canada with a big schooner of Molson infront of me (LETS GO), and anything was possible. Even at that point, up by 3 goals in the final frame, images of Round 2 on the horizon, already looking at flights to New York for a potential gangster road trip, something didn’t feel right. There was too much time left for the Leafs to blow it, and if there’s one think that shaped my childhood, it’s the Leafs blowing it.

As soon as Nathan Horton scored to make it 4-2 with over 9 minutes remaining, you could sense a collective tightening of buttholes across the Great White North. There was too much time left, with the most dangerous lead in hockey on the line. It was a stay of execution. It was as though the already Bruins knew they had won that game, and the Leafs knew it too. Once Milan Lucic scored to come within one with just over 2 minutes left, the walls were crumbling and a complete massacre was underway. The script was written when Patrice Bergeron tied it up at 4 a piece with less than a minute remaining. The Bruins had already won the series before overtime began.

I’ll never forget this game for the rest of my life because feelings of disgust lasted well into the next 24 hours, as I dealt with the most intense case of food poisoning in the entire world (which is why I gave the sports bar a shoutout in the blog) to the point that I actually fainted at the bus station while basically having a full body blowout and needing to use a wheel chair (just a regular day in the Regina bus station), and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance to be treated for dehydration.

Back to the Bruins Beatdown. While you could look at Bergeron being the Leaf killer that day, it was Toronto who assisted him in the task. You never want to kick a guy when he’s down (but as Jerry reminded us, it’s way easier to you don’t have to lift your leg that high), but the Leafs of 2013 were not the mentally strong powerhouse of pure-uninhibited-in your face-talent that we see today. Phil Kessel’s confidence was the size of a gum ball being chewed and spit out by Randy Carlyle, Dion Phaneuf was supposedly the captain, Clarke MacArthur was ready to ride into the Kanata sunset, and my god Michael Grabovski was the second coming (went from 51 points in 11-12 to 16 points in 12-13, yikes.)

2018 could not be more different. Mike Babcock. Brendan Shanahan. Lou Lamorello. Auston Matthews. William Nylander. Patrick Marleau. Mitch Marner. JVR. Morgan Rielly. Freddie Andersen. To name a few. Most of these kids were basically playing junior hockey and sipping slush puppies at the rink when the Leafs collapsed 5 years ago. They don’t know that pain because they’re too damn good (and young). Even their quotes in the media barely address the first round against Boston (mostly because the Bruins had a chance to win the Atlantic on Sunday night against Florida and let that slip away against a non-playoff team, sad), but also because these kids are in it for a greater goal this year. They went the distance (6 games, 5 in OT) against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals, which was an accomplishment enough based on the strength and expectations of Barry Trotz’s group (but according to PFT, this year, not last year, is “our year”), and now the buds are smelling blood in the water and believe they can go further.

Toronto won the season series 3-1 against the Bruins this year, with all three victories coming without former 1st overall pick Auston Matthews. They’re fast, young and healthy. Offense is a huge upside, as is goaltending. Defense is a little suspect, something that isn’t the case for the Bruins who have allowed the 4th fewest goals in the NHL this year. B’s have consistently been able to win despite key injuries, they can score, they’re physical, Bergeron and Marchand are playing lights out, and let’s not forget the number of young guns they have wearing the crest. The worst part about the new NHL playoffs is that these two teams are facing each other so early, a match-up that could easily be in the 2nd round based on record and skill.

Bruins are the favorite. But if any Leafs team is going to avenge the Collapse of 2013, it’s this group. This time I can only hope for the action to be limited to the electric chair and not the bathroom.