“Demons out!! Demons out!! The Lord above commands you, demons out!!”
This was the scene last night as Phil Kessel put on a white collar and black robe and in his best Southern Baptist drawl, performed a hockey “exorcism” of sorts in front of a stunned ACC crowd while scoring twice in a 6-1 Leafs victory. There seemed to be a sense of “is this happening” amongst the Blue & White faithful in attendance. The celebration of slaying the Bruins feels delayed until the morning for this Leafs fan. Did last night really happen? And now what do we do with ourselves?
As the dragon beast Chara lay sleeping, the Leafs faced the men who’d handed them such humiliation, such heartache these past few seasons. The Boston Bruins left us bleeding to death three weeks ago, here on home soil. An outcry for change bellowed through Leaf Nation. The coach was a dead man walking and the core’s character was in serious question. The squad that Nonis was mostly responsible for was in tremendous peril. The organization was on virtual life support. What happened next I’m not sure, but the story we’ve been given is the Leafs in unison proclaimed “Enough is enough”.
After the brutality of our most recent loss to the Bruins we dusted ourselves off and headed on a little run. On the back of some unlikely contributions and Kessel being Kessel, the run would quiet things down. Though no real validity to the Leafs stretch of good play could come until we walked by our bully again. Let me try to explain.
For me, I’ve always wanted to be the Bruins. I’ve looked up to them at times. I’ve even watched as we stood up to them, but you know how it is. You just can’t beat the tough kid. Nice try, how’s your black eye and bruised ribs doing? It’s really difficult to not be envious of the class bully, the cool guy.
The Bruins have everything we ever wanted. Start with the history. Orr, Espo, Bourque and now Chara and their Stanley Cup. Terry O’Reilly really got it going for me. He was the face of the Bruins in my youth and they were tough. But they could play. That’s how they’ve been most of the time since. Their roster the last few years have been loaded with “my type of guy” players. Up the middle they are excellent. I have Patrice Bergeron higher than most, I consider him a top 5 center in a playoff series, and David Krejci shows up for the big ones. Talented wingers and in net they stole our beautiful new Tonka truck in Rask for an old Hot Rod dinky in Raycroft. On defense they have so many good ones they had to trade Boychuk away, the exact type guy Leafs fans would adore. They just seem to have it all. All the things I want in a team, at least.
The Leafs coaching staff, Carlyle in particular took a lot of heat for the Leafs debacle last time we saw Boston. I said then the fault was not his as I say today the credit is not his. Those players last night, they faced their fears.
But the bully has become more than just the takers of our lunch money. They’ve gone too far. The Leafs have been tortured into submission. The Bruins have pulled down our pants in front of the entire school and spanked our bums. We have to face this to get over it. That’s what they did. Broke every one of our hearts and we are still healing. The playoff loss is still fresh, but there was something about that last loss that was a new level of sickening. Something about it made us get up, wipe the blood from our lip and say, “not again”. It’s time to fight back.
Well the Hub has a message for the Bully: As you probably found out last night we’ve been working out. These last three weeks have seen us on in the “gym” if you will, getting ready for our chance to punch the Bruins square in their smug mouths.
I don’t know about you guys, but I feel alive today.
The Leafs coaching staff, Carlyle in particular took a lot of heat for the Leafs debacle last time we saw Boston. I said then the fault was not his as I say today the credit is not his. Those players last night, they faced their fears. Right from the first shift they stood in the Bruins face and dictated the pace. Quite frankly, they picked on the Bruins.
You never want to put too much stock into a single win but I can’t help but see symbolism in this one. We just gave the Bruins a “wedgie” at center ice at the ACC. And I think for the fan base it’s going to serve as a starting point. Almost a reset in the sense that you kind of feel like “ok, we can like our guys again”. A win like that says “maybe these guys did have enough and maybe they are ready to be a team we can get behind”. A win like that says a lot of things and every one of them are good. Don’t kid yourself. Last night’s win was very, very big. Defeat often creates solidarity, but the victory on the other end of adversity provides the true adhesive.
Whatever you want to call it, nemesis, bully, demon, dungeon master, the Bruins have been all that. The Leafs took a massive step in getting past it last night. The guys should feel good about themselves. There are some people in that room who have waited a long time to stick it to Boston. They’ve waited a long time to “exorcise their demons”. Can I get an Amen?
So be proud today at the Hub. Walk tall Leafs fans. Just remember that the Pittsburgh Penguins are next, and they’ve been known to give us some awful “pink belly” from time to time. We have no reason to be cocky, but better still, we have no reason to be afraid.
And to the Bruins……next time we see you….have your lunch money ready.