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The old Maple Leafs are dead. Long live the Maple Leafs

The old Maple Leafs are dead. Long live the Maple Leafs

Posted by PanamericanWorld on April 10, 2017

Penguins forward Jake Guentzel threw the puck towards the net, it tipped off of Nikita Zaitsev’s leg then off the skate of Jake Gardiner and somehow it sneaked through the five hole of Curtis McEilhinny. Is this how the Toronto Maple Leafs season was going to end? Once again, are we the laughing stock of the sports world?

It had every ingredient for a typical Maple Leafs tragedy. Additionally, out of all players for it to happen to, it was Jake Gardiner. Gardiner has had a phenomenal season this year yet somehow, that has not stopped a large group of fans from bashing his play.

Despite having a strong year defensively and breaking out offensively, Gardiner’s turnovers have skewed fans’ perception of him, causing many to suppress his positive contribution to the team. The pro-Gardiner group has been trying to fight this notion for years. Well, this was your worst nightmare.

I checked social media after this goal and was not surprised from what I saw. My twitter scan included tweets like “Bench him Babcock”, “Worst player on the team”, and of course “Jake Gardiner, best defender on the Leafs according to all those genius stats guys”. Gardiner’s unlucky deflection only fueled that Leafs fan group even more, it looked like this was a moment that could define Gardiner’s career with the Leafs.

Everything was so perfectly imperfect.

Perfectly imperfect, just like how it was in 2000, when the Leafs generated only six shots on net when facing elimination to lose to the New Jersey Devils. Just like in 2002 against the Hurricanes, when the late-great Pat Quinn was hospitalized leading to game six series-ending OT winner from Martin Gelinas in the Conference Finals.

How about in 2007, when the Toronto Maple Leafs thought a Kyle Wellwood goal against the Habs would get them into the playoffs. Only to have the Islanders win in a shootout on the last day of the regular season to kick them out of contention. And of course, that Boston game seven thingy.  This novel looked like it was about to have a new chapter.

These Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t those Leafs

These new Leafs fought irony with irony. With less than six minutes left in the game, Kasperi Kapanen was the beneficiary of a beautiful Matt Hunwick pass. The same Kasperi Kapanen that was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The same Kasperi Kapanen who was apart of the Kessel deal that many fans at the time felt was not worth it for the Leafs. It was Kapanen’s first NHL point, one that will be remembered by Leafs fans for a very long time.

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