Maybe it was karmic retribution for allowing the team to be the focal point of “The Love Guru.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to squander a three-goal lead in the third period of a Game 7 on Monday night, getting eliminated by the Boston Bruins by an improbable 5-4 score in overtime.
Toronto was up 4-1 with 10 minutes left, and 4-2 with two minutes left. Boston managed to score a pair of goals in the final 1:22 of regulation before Patrice Bergeron ended it at the 6:05 mark of overtime.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask summed up things nicely afterwards by telling NESN’s Mike Cole, “It’s do or die. You’re either a hero or an asshole.”
If that’s the case, the Leafs look like some of the biggest assholes in sports history. In terms of all-time playoff lore in any sport, this is up there among some particularly inglorious company. In other words, Cleveland Browns territory.
Certainly Denver’s drive in the 1986 AFC title game comes to mind, but this is more like if the Broncos had completed the drive, then recovered an onside kick and scored again on a field goal to send it to overtime, then won. Or if the next year Denver needed to scoop up Earnest Byner’s fumble and rumble the other way for a touchdown to win.
In baseball, the Pirates’ ninth-inning meltdown against the Braves in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS is a fair equivalent. The Buccos blew a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth as Sid Bream raced home at 1.4 miles per hour with the winning run. Pittsburgh hasn’t reached the playoffs, or even finished above .500, since.
The shame of it for the Leafs is they were on the verge of wiping away their own playoff drought. Toronto hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2004, and the youngest team in this year’s playoffs was on the verge of an impressive rally from being down three games to one in the series.
Instead, it will go down as another example of the name on the front of the sweater being a symbol of incompetence that hasn’t hoisted a Stanley Cup since 1967. If that negativity becomes pervasive, it can grow into a drought of even worse proportions — something most Bostonians can attest to seeing themselves.
Toronto fans will have to hope the lessons learned by the Leafs in winning two elimination games outweigh the indignity of their Game 7 exit. Ironically, paying attention to a previous group of unlikely Boston Game 7 winners might be the best way to do it — the Red Sox pulled off the greatest rally in baseball history just one year after an excruciating Game 7 loss of their own.
But then again, the Curse of the Bambino may have nothing on the Curse of “The Love Guru.”
PS — I don’t know if the above picture was taken after Bergeron’s OT goal or following an announcement of a national poutine shortage.