Leafs & Jays: Close Isn’t Good Enough

1217 for publication Saturday April15, 2017 (Easter)

Ross Brewitt

Don’t tell me you weren’t impressed.

Yes, you with the all-knowing smirk on your facial welcome mat, the lopsided grin that screams “see I told you so!”

I’m speaking to the closet Leaf fans who are gradually cluttering up the social media lines of escape from the real world, with claims of knowing “the Leafs won’t do squat against the Great Eight and his crew.”

Speaking of Ovechkin he didn’t do very much either if you’re keeping track of goals, but he was his rambunctious self when he was out there. At 6’, 238-pounds, that’s a lot of rambunctious to handle.

For those who haven’t decided who they are backing, the Leafs are playing Washington who led all teams in points. 118 of them. The Leafs put up 95.

The Caps have been rapping on the door for two decades, it seems, having reached the final only once in the spring of ’98, when Detroit won. The Leafs haven’t won, forever, or so it seems. The fact they were in 30th place last season, is how they acquired Auston Matthews in the draft. His purchased sweaters have just passed DQ Blizzard sales in Toronto.

Anyway, the fact they lost the opener 3-2 in overtime shouldn’t take away from the fact they scored the first two goals in the series. It forced the powerhouse Caps to go to extreme lengths for the win, with a seeing-eye wrister that had to be puck-up-on-end to squeeze between Frederik Anderson and the goalpost. Like dropping a dime in a piggy-bank slot on the first try.

It was, to say the least, a cruel result for the Leafs because if Tom Smith, the Caps scorer, notches a second goal in this series, he’ll be in the hunt for the Conn Smythe Trophy, as the playoff MVP.

The twist in this story folks is, if the Leafs somehow win this opening round, it would be just as shocking as the Leafs memorable loss to Boston in the 2013 opening series when the Bruins rallied and won game seven.

Now Leaf coach Mike Babcock has to convince his troops to win game two in Washington, then return to Toronto for games three and four in the friendly confines of the ACC. The Toronto nay-sayers contend that a win on Friday would spell a sweep of the Leafs. No kidding. A fan on morning TV wearing a blue-and-white body-suit and hockey pants, right down to blue and white shoelaces predicted as much.

Meanwhile, lost in the Stanley Cup fever that’s more like a cough and a facial rash for are the Jays, Toronto’s other team,. They hit a new low, losing to the Orioles on Wednesday, with three more games to go over the weekend. Their record as of Thursday morning, stands at 1-8. It’s  a hole beginning to look like the view from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Looking back over copious notes from last years “Three-Out Circus,” it’s obvious the Jays, under the direction of John Gibbons, haven’t addressed several of the same short-comings they experienced last year.

You could say not having the moving parts to correct past errors is the realm of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins. From my notes I was able to determine that with one exception, the Blue Jays are basically the same team, the same personnel, same coaching staff, and same front line starters and closers, and the same game approach. Allow me to cite a classic example.

Wednesday night, eighth inning, leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar singles taking first-base with no-outs. Justin Smoak bats for Darwin Barney, proceeds to strike out on four pitches. Devon Travis grounds into double-play. Inning over.

In the ninth, with Brewer’s closer Felice in for the power of the Jays lineup, Bautista pops up to center, Donaldson walks, Saltalamacchia pinch runs, and Morales hits into double play. Game over, Brewers win, 2-0.

You’ve seen this flaccid approach before, right?

The Jays don’t pursue scoring runs. They wait.

 

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