The Toronto Maple Leafs are the perfect team for the city which they represent - loud, in-your-face, truculent.
The Maple Leafs - like the city of Toronto - is rife with talent and undiscovered gems separated by long stretches of blah, grey, and mismanaged public transportation. A Torontonian knows first-hand what it is like battling traffic, whether it's on the Gardiner Expressway, or in front of the net. Every goal - like every daily pleasure in Toronto - is an arduous, brutish struggle; the satisfaction of which is enjoyed only until the next. Just another day in Toronto.
Toronto's weakness, is in its inconsistency. Seemingly beautiful architecture is compromised by ugly black wires; speed, and a slick power play out-shadowed by lackluster defensive zone coverage. The City and the Team are a study in polarizing opposites: The symbol of the city shines like a diamond highlighting a brilliant night-sky; but then pollutes the day time view with an unmitigated liberal use of grey concrete from the 70s. The backbone of the team - James Reimer - either shines, or s*** mediocrity down all over us. Toronto lacks consistency. Consistency, is what Toronto, lacks.
But tomorrow night folks; tomorrow night. Tomorrow night, you write this down in your agenda right now. The Toronto Maple Leafs, are going to bounce back after Game 3's nervous effort, and they are going to roll.
The Leafs are playing great hockey. They are just nervous. You can see it in their faces. First, they play their First Playoff Game in 9 years on the road in the city of Boston that had the emotional force of a Goliath behind it in Game 1. No contest. Then, they roll in Game 2 after finding their feet and remembering that they too are professional hockey players.
Game 3, was the First Playoff Game in the city of Toronto in 9 years. The City was going berserk. The Team felt the enormous weight of a Playoff Starved Populace like a Crack Whore on Speed. The team had way too much energy. Way too much emotion. They didn't know how to deal with it. They gave up the puck in silly, amateur-like giveaways; and they essentially handed the game to the Bruins. The game was over waaaayyyy too early. This was like when you were 17, and you were having sex for the first time. It probably wasn't Brutish; it may have been Nasty; but it was definitely Short.
That's all that's happening in this series. Toronto is a great big bundle of insecure nerves. They have played this up and down style all year long: Win a game, lose a game, win a game, s*** all over themselves.
Toronto is at it's best, when it plays with it's back to the wall. Game 4, is a "back against the wall" type of Game. Watch for the Leafs to come out skating, hitting, and - perhaps most importantly - winning some Faceoffs (for crying out loud!!). The Leafs aren't exactly known as a "faceoff" team; but getting "outfaceoffed" 58% to 42% is ridiculous. Especially when you have Tyler "The Pride and Joy of the City of Regina" Bozak on your team.
The Nerves will settle. Toronto will win more faceoffs. That will lead to more dump-ins, which will lead to more Hits. More Hits, will lead to an imbalance in the Game that will see a parade to the Penalty Box. The Toronto Power Play has lived up to it's expectations (4/12 in the series); while the Boston Power Play has also lived up to it's "expectations" (1/9 - has given up a Shortie).
Toronto needs to play on the edge to win. They need to create an imbalance; create the type of game that will see many penalties. So far, the Leafs are dominating the Special Teams Categories - and there is nothing to suggest they won't continue that trend.
On the other hand, there is something to suggest that the Faceoff Trend will begin to normalize: Tyler Bozak got kicked out of the circle on several occasions during the game. Bad night. Bad ref. Bad bounces. Bounces (and refs) normalize. Toronto should see nearer to 50% in the Faceoff Circle in Game 4.
One thing you have to say about Toronto - the City and the Team - is that they give you their full effort night in and night out. But the team - just like the City - lacks in consistency. They have the talent to be a good Team; they have the sights to be a great City. So far, they haven't got the bounces, and they are plagued with inconsistencies. But, once they get this talented bunch up and rolling, they will be a tough group to handle.
Toronto will come up big in Game 4; and even the series at 2-2. You heard it here first.
PS - Expect a big game from JVR.