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Leafs Face Another Must Win Tonight

Thursday, 03.24.2011 / 12:39 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Leafs Face Another Must Win Tonight

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Because I work in the sports business, people assume I gamble on sports.

Ha. I don’t even participate in playoff pools.

The more I watch sports, the less I think I know. It’s sort of inverse to the way teenagers appraise their own wisdom.

To me, handicapping games is like betting where an autumn leaf will land. There are just too many variables and variables often lend to poor predictions..

The Leafs are in Denver tonight for a 9 p.m. game and the only thing on the line is everything.
Start with the biggest Mixmaster in the kitchen. What the Leafs do may not matter at all.

Tuesday, a win by Buffalo meant the distance to a playoff berth remained five points. Five points has become, rightly or wrongly, the line between a legitimate hope and a fanciful notion.

The way Tuesday played out reminded you of a little boy, windmilling his arms toward a bigger kid. The larger boy keeps the kid at bay by pushing the palm of his hand into the kid’s forehead. No matter what the little kid does…

Funny how the story angles that have defined the season have tumbled into the background. It feels too late to fulminate over special teams. You can memorize the Leafs season-long stats but the team that racked up those negative numbers no longer exists. Just what is here remains a mystery but it looks a whole lot better than the club with Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin.

Even James Reimer’s glowing numbers, 16-7-4, .925 SV% and 2.49 GAA mean nothing if Matt Duchene pumps two by Reimer in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Phil Kessel’s largely unfulfilled promise explodes if he bags a couple tonight. Same thing with most any grudge harbored against Ron Wilson.

Invariably, the game will reveal what it is:  a combustible paper-thin construct of luck, work, talent and planning.

The great thing about a playoff race is what you did up to face-off matters not a bit. That five-point deficit can be the product of bad mojo, sloth or poor talent. It doesn’t matter.

It’s also the worst thing because the unlikely, the unknown, the unforeseen, a bad bounce, decision or call, can end everything. You don’t have to go into overtime to feel sudden death.

Can’t wait. I’ll add my voice to the dialogue with a story after the game. Until then, stay tuned.

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