TORONTO — Everything about the Toronto Maple Leafs blowing a 3-1 lead to the Boston Bruins in the third period of their game Thursday night reeked of familiarity.
All you have to do is think back to the Leafs’ Game 7 collapse in the third period against the Bruins in last season’s playoffs to know just what was running through the heads of fans in Toronto.
But last night a collapse didn’t happen. Instead, Nazem Kadri scored a power play goal in overtime to give the Maple Leafs a desperately needed 4-3 victory to keep themselves in the playoff race.
While Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said last season’s Game 7 failure never entered his mind during last night’s game, he provided a bit of advice for his team when things turned heavily in the Bruins favor in the third.
“I tell them to breathe. That’s been our catchphrase now,” Carlyle said. “Because you can’t do anything if you don’t breathe and that’s what’s happened to our hockey club is when we’re freezing, we’re just paralyzed. Just breathe. Just breathe. Take it easy, breathe. We’ll get through it. Do the things that you’re accustomed to doing. Believe in the system, commit to it, and just breathe. Relax.
“You can’t do anything tense. You can’t be all tensed up to play the game.”
It may have been just a regular season game, and one that didn’t really mean a lot to the Bruins, but everything about it was tense from the Toronto perspective.
A loss against Boston would’ve forced Toronto to run the table the rest of the way to have a hope of making the playoffs. Never mind all the psychological bogeymen that losing to the Bruins in such a fashion would’ve brought about.
Instead, the Leafs carry on and perhaps more “breathing” is what they need going into the final four games of the season. They can’t afford to lose now or else another collapse will be added to their legacy.