I have family and friends in Toronto.
They have suffered – with varying degrees of bright hope and bitter disappointment – through a Stanley Cup drought that has lasted 45 years.
Here in Montreal in 2012, we are experiencing what Leaf fans have lived with since 1967.
It’s no fun.
And I wouldn’t wish this feeling of hopelessness on any other city.
The Leafs are three points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They are undefeated under Randy Carlyle.
They have loyal fans, a couple thousand of whom made a lot of noise in the upper bowl of the Bell Centre Saturday night, watching their team bounce back from 1-0 to win 3-1.
Let the biggest city in this hockey-mad country enjoy some late April hockey.
I’d love to see Winnipeg get in as well. And Calgary.
The more Canadian clubs, the merrier – although spring merriment probably won’t stretch east of the Ontario-Quebec border.
In blowing yet another lead, the Canadiens racked up their 23rd loss on home ice. That’s two more than lowly Columbus.
The 29th-place Edmonton Oilers have four more home wins than the proudest franchise in hockey.
The Canadiens are going nowhere this season. Everybody – fans, players and management – knows this.
So Randy Cunneyworth shuffles players in and out of the lineup and from line to line – hoping not to inflict any more black marks on a CV he’ll be e-mailing around this summer.
After facing 42 shots – matching the season-high total that Pittsburgh fired at him on Nov. 26 – Carey Price said he was “over being frustrated.”
“I’m just going to do my job,” Price added, “and try to do it to the best of my ability.”
The best of Price’s ability is pretty good. But there’s only so much a goaltender can do to bail out a one-line hockey team.
Max Pacioretty had six shots on goal against Toronto. Erik Cole had four (and scored the Canadiens’ only goal). P.K. Subban had four.
Three players had 14 of the Canadiens’ 22 shots.
With the exception of Joey Crabb, every skater in the Toronto lineup had at least one shot on goal. And Crabb had three hits.
Eight Canadiens had zero shots.
We’ll forgive David Desharnais his goose egg because he was making plays for his linemates.
Blake Geoffrion had no shots. Neither did Andreas Engqvist, who was bounced back to Hamilton after the game.
Tomas Plekanec had one SoG. And I’ll cut him the slack I cut DD, because the Canadien who, earlier in his career, centred Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn played with Ryan White and Geoffrion. But you can’t blame his inept linemates for Plekanec’s struggles in the faceoff circle: one win, 13 lossses.
Lars Eller went 9-6 on draws, but his latest trio included raw Louis Leblanc and the phlegmatic Rene Bourque.
This was a punchless lineup that, with the exception of the DD line and a couple decent plays by Lars Eller, exerted absolutely no sustained pressure in the Toronto end.
You have to think that Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche … heck, even Scott Gomez … might have helped.
But Toronto needed a win. And after being outshot 6-3 through the early minutes of the game, the Leafs had a 39-16 advantage.
In the Saturday morning press conference that featured a tour de force performance by Brian Burke, Carlyle talked about the Leafs utilizing their speed. They did lot of zipping around the Canadiens’ zone, as the team with one functioning forward line also featured only one effective defence pairing: Subban and Josh Gorges.
Toronto’s speed seemed to create problems for Alexei Emelin, who managed a measly two hits (a total matched by his partner, Yannick Weber).
And looking ahead to next season, I think we can all agree that when the opening night starters are announced, the D pair will not be Tomas Kaberle and Chris Campoli.
October can’t come soon enough.