The Toronto Maple Leafs won their third straight game Saturday night, rebounding perfectly from Monday night’s debacle.
Remember when Leafs land was all in a panic? It was Monday night, and the Toronto Maple Leafs had just done the unthinkable blowing a 5-1 lead against the Ottawa Senators.
It was a painful and unexplainable loss, for a franchise that has had plenty of both. It was a rare low point in an otherwise stellar campaign – a jolt of adversity that doesn’t usually befall a team with only 3 losses at the 16-game mark.
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But adversity in professional sports is unavoidable, and as the “unbeatable” Kansas City Chiefs showed earlier this month, it comes for every team sooner or later. Teams are not measured by how long they can avoid it, they are measured by how they deal with it, and hopefully, move on from it.
The Leafs did that emphatically Saturday night, taking care of the Montreal Canadians 5-3.
The win brought the Leafs’ current winning streak to three, but most importantly, was a strong bounce-back against stiff competition. The Senators dropped the final two games of the three-game set, but that was to be expected.
The reason Monday’s loss stood out in the first place was the fact that the Senators weren’t any good – the Leafs are supposed to beat them. The question was, how would choking away such a lead affect the team going forward. Would it bring back memories of failed game sevens past, or last year’s bubble fiasco?
All these things were on the minds of Leaf fans everywhere, and the team (should have) put those thoughts to bed last night.
Toronto Maple Leafs remain in driver’s seat with big lead in North Division
The Leafs are now the first team in the league to 30 points, and hold a comfortable lead in the North division. They also have an impressive +21 goal differential, a full ten points higher than anyone else in their division.
Things are clicking in a way they usually don’t in Toronto. The team has a real shot at winning the division, something they haven’t done since 1999-2000.
And yet, the fanbase felt the panic – and the talk shows did their usual doomsday predictions. That’s the nature of the beast in Toronto. That’s how things are. Ask Phil Kessel. Dion Phaneuf. James Reimer. The good days are good – but the bad…the bad will have you feeling like the whole house of cards is coming down.
That’s why a game like Saturday nights is so important – it shows that this team isn’t like those other teams. The noise is always going to be off the charts in Toronto. Every season the expectations and second-guessing will drive a coach insane, and every time something goes right, people start looking for the next “18-wheeler going off a cliff” moment to laugh about.
The good teams tune it out, and play their game – and that’s something the Leafs have done better than anyone else this year. It goes beyond the record (14-3-2). It’s how they’ve carried themselves, how Matthews and Marner have produced well over a point-per-game, and how they dealt with injuries and kept ongoing.
There’s a long way to go, but Leafs fans can take comfort in the fact that this team is playing with confidence and a belief that the past would say they have no business feeling. It’s going to take that mentality to end the Stanley Cup drought.