From advancing past the first round for the first time in 19 years to losing in 5 games. What went wrong? The Leafs got outworked, and outplayed, which resulted in them losing. This article will be my point of view and in my opinion where everything went wrong
Firstly, congratulations to the Florida Panthers for continuing their unbelievable run in the playoffs. Good luck and make the Atlantic division proud.
In this series, there weren’t a whole bunch of different things that went wrong, but instead 3-4 things that kept going wrong. Firstly I want to talk about the Leafs team as a whole. From the core 5 who put up 42 points in 6 games in round 1 to putting up 13 points in 5 games. I complained about our goaltending in the past series and although Samsonov had some great moments I didn’t have full confidence. Now I can’t put the full blame on Samsonov since he got injured in game 3 but in games 1 and 2 he looked a bit off. I think there will be a report out that Samsonov was never 100% healthy due to how uncomfortable he looked in net. Also, the defense that I will go more in-depth later on.
The Core 5
From showing their true potential in round 1 to showing flashbacks of previous series. This Core 5 truly showed they do not have the heart to go all the way and win a cup. I have always defended these guys since they are our stars but now they have proven all the haters right. There have always been writings that the top players don’t care and that they’re lazy. They have shown those claims are true based on their lack of production in round 2.
From great additions at the trade deadline to being the same mediocre defense Leaf fans have seen in the past, there’s no reason why fans shouldn’t be mad. The biggest complaint from Leaf fans was why Justin Holl was playing while Timothy Liljegren was a healthy scratch most nights. I have to agree with the fans based on his play. A lot of the pairings the Leafs throughout during the series were mainly just a mess. From Mark Giordano + Justin Holl, to Jake McCabe + T.J. Brodie, nothing seemed to work. The Florida Panthers barely had an issue getting through the Leafs’ defense and oftentimes the defenders looked lost.
Although the goaltending wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the biggest issue. We have seen a glimpse in the Tampa series where Samsonov looked shaky. After Samsonov went down with his injury and Joseph Woll was named game 4 starter over Matt Murray it caused a lot of mixed emotions. I personally think it was the right choice to put Woll in for game 4. He’s played great in the small sample size we have seen thus far. Woll has served as the backup goalie while Murray was dealing with his injury. Taking the net away from him and giving it to Murray, the Leafs third-string goalie, seemed like a foolish decision. Woll earned this opportunity.
I can understand Leaf fans may be frustrated by the lack of calls or the lack of NHL player safety taking action. In reality, the Leafs were 1/9 on the powerplay this series and weren’t capitalizing on the opportunities.
Point of interest:
I had an odd feeling that the Leafs weren’t going to be good in this series after seeing a tweet from Chris Johnston. Following the Leafs series win over the Lightning he tweeted. “Another case of Bud Light was just delivered to the #leafs dressing room.”. I was hoping that tweet wasn’t true because that is simply embarrassing. Other teams have struggled in the playoffs before and I haven’t heard of them celebrating like that. For me that shows the Leafs have a losing mentality. Instead of trying to stay hungry and continue their momentum they are celebrating a round 1 series win.
“Going all in”:
Kyle Dubas gave up a lot of draft capital at the trade deadline to give the Leafs the best chance for success in the playoff. Now with the Leafs losing in 5 games to the Panthers, it seems like it was all for nothing. When there were only 8 teams left and the Leafs were arguably one of the best teams on paper, they just threw it out the window.
I do believe there will be some major moves in the offseason but that will be for a different article. For now, the Leafs will have to do an internal review of the team and first see what needs changing. On a good note, the Leafs know they have a quality NHL ready goalie for next season, and there is plenty of time to decide on what will happen between now and the beginning of the next season involving trades.