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The Leafs Lost Again… But It Was Different This Year

 Congrats Leafs Nation! Our big fish at the deadline is staying with Toronto for two more years.. But it’s appropriate to look back at this season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. It had to be seven games, and it had to be in the first round. But for the first time since losing to Washington in the first round back in 2017, I’m not mad about it, not even disappointed. This one just hurts. 

In years past the Leafs have had major faults. The Babcock coached seasons where they met up against Boston were lost due to terrible coaching, and partially a team that was just too young and inexperienced. Sheldon Keefe takes over but the pandemic shuts down the season. Toronto shows up to the bubble to participate in the play-in. Then proceed to play like they don’t want to be there. Lack of effort from everyone involved.

Then Montreal happened, the one series that keeps us up at night. John Tavares went down with a horrific injury in game one. But the team battles back hard and plays a full 200 foot game for three games to go up 3-1 in the series. The lack of effort kicked in for game five, it was like watching a completely different team. Marner and Matthews didn’t show up. It was like watching a slow painful death, highlighted by Travis Dermotts OT giveaway to lose game six.

I tried to be mad at this loss, but I couldn’t do it. I wrote earlier in the season that if they don’t win this year the whole season is meaningless, that Matthews’ record breaking pace ends up wasted. But after the series is over I don’t actually feel that.

They really put it on the line this year, and did enough to win it. They simply were just beaten. The core stepped up, Marner and Matthews had a hell of a series. Jack Campbell seemed to be the better goalie in the series. Sheldon Keefe also coached a great seven games. 

This season was labeled as do or die by a lot of Maple Leaf fans. In a sense it was, fans needed a series win. They didn’t get it but the Maple Leafs finally looked like a real team come May, which fans haven’t seen before. Fans wanted the team blown up if they didn’t win a series. But with the way they played I think they have to roll it back.

Keeping Campbell should be a priority for GM Kyle Dubas this offseason. They’ll most likely lose Mikheyev and Kerfoot but I trust Dubas to find suitable replacements for them. The team he assembled is 100% good enough to win a cup. I truly believe that next season is the year they prove it to the world.       

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