In a method, their first spherical matchup towards the Montreal Canadiens has been the very same as almost each different playoff collection the Toronto Maple Leafs have performed in since 2013.
On Monday evening, the winner of the collection shall be determined in a single closing sport, as Toronto hosts their longest-standing rival in a Recreation 7.
It could be so unbelievable and inexplicable that we’re right here as soon as once more, if it wasn’t, in some way, essentially the most predictable end result, regardless of each affordable statistical mannequin saying in any other case.
“I’m feeling actually good,” Leafs goalie Jack Campbell stated Saturday evening following the crew’s 3-2 OT loss in Montreal. “We’re not happening simple. We’ve obtained to refocus and prepare for Recreation 7.”
Win, and Toronto’s playoff demons go away, no less than for a number of nights earlier than the well-rested Winnipeg Jets come to city.
Lose, and, effectively, who the is aware of what occurs from there? Having one other first spherical collection so shut was by no means a part of the plan.
Usual music and dance?
Since 2013, Toronto has performed three Recreation 7s towards Boston and a winner-take-all Recreation 5 towards Columbus. As you may need heard, they misplaced all of them.
We’ve seen this film earlier than so many instances you’d marvel if it was a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs Cinematic Universe (TMLCU for brief, patent pending), and why the plot by no means appears to alter all that a lot.
Via epic collapses and comebacks, by various coaches and administration teams, and whether or not Tyler Bozak or Auston Matthews is centering the highest line, it by no means appears to matter a lot.
However in so many different methods, it isn’t like several of these collection in any respect.
Not one of the prior collection had the Leafs getting in as the upper seed, particularly not by eighteen factors.
Not one of the prior collection featured the Leafs dropping their captain, John Tavares, ten minutes in for the remainder of the sport.
Not one of the prior collection had the Leafs with a three-games-to-one lead by 4 video games.
Each collection has had its personal little quirks and wrinkles. That’s little comfort to a rabid fanbase and an intense media market. For Leafs followers, the sentiments of dread, pleasure, confusion, and despair have all returned. For the gamers, they’ve obtained one final likelihood to show that they’ll shake the playoff choker label.
Matthews and Marner have to step up
If the Leafs lose Monday evening, pretty or not, two gamers shall be assured the key scapegoats, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Sadly for Toronto, they haven’t actually executed an entire lot of something offensively, or no less than what they’re being paid to do – put the puck within the web.
Matthews, who scored 41 instances within the common season, has scored as soon as, whereas Marner has not scored a playoff aim in any respect since his pair in Recreation 1 towards Boston in 2019.
In each forwards’ case, they actually haven’t executed too a lot mistaken up to now that you would be able to level to. Neither has been on the ice for a aim towards at even energy.
The most important seen gaffe between the 2 was Marner’s puck-over the-glass penalty in Recreation 6 that led on to the Habs 2-0 aim on Saturday.
It turns into an afterthought in the event that they win Monday evening, and gas for his detractors for an entire summer season in the event that they lose.
Mitch Marner has 12 profession PIMS within the playoffs (six minor penalties). Right here they’re:
2018 Recreation 2: Puck over glass
2018 Recreation 6: Puck over glass
2019 Recreation 5: Puck over glass
2020 Recreation 4: Tripping
2021 Recreation 1: Puck over glass
2021 Recreation 6: Puck over glass
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) May 30, 2021
The method appears to be there for each Matthews and Marner to supply.
Each have been dominant in relation to anticipated objectives and possession metrics. The Leafs are outshooting the Canadiens 65-37 with the pair on the ice collectively, and outscoring them 3-0.
Marner had 38 shifts in Recreation 6, which was essentially the most of any Leafs ahead. Matthews has 32 photographs on web these playoffs, second solely to David Pastrnak amongst forwards league-wide.
If both Marner or Matthews had simply one extra aim — in any of their three one-goal losses — we’re in all probability already speaking about how they match up towards the Winnipeg Jets.
“Clearly, we had loads of possibilities to finish it,” Matthews stated after Recreation 6. “It’s a sport of inches on the market in extra time.”
Rewriting the narrative
There was a time, pretty lately even, the place playoff failures – and even simply failing to make the playoffs in any respect – had been seen as a Toronto downside.
However championships throughout the final 5 years from the Raptors, Toronto FC, Argos, Wolfpack, and even the AHL’s Marlies, coupled with a pair of ALCS runs from the Blue Jays in 2015 and 2016, have proven that it’s not a difficulty with the 416 space code.
If the Leafs wish to shed their label as playoff chokers, they’ll must take steering from former late Oakland Raiders proprietor Al Davis, who had the best but only methodology of wiping away any issues with three well-known phrases:
Simply win, child.
On Monday, Toronto has obtained sixty minutes to just do that.