By Stan Smith
Losing 3-2 in overtime and going down 3-0 to the Florida Panthers is about as ugly as it gets.
It wasn’t the only ugly thing in this game though. There were extremely ugly errors on two of the three Panthers’ goals. On their first goal by Anthony Duclair on the power play, I have to ask how in the heck do you give up a breakaway when you are killing a penalty? You have four skaters on the ice with the sole purpose of preventing the opposing team from scoring a goal.
I could maybe understand it if you were making a line change; but, that was not the case on this play. Defensemen Justin Holl and Jake McCabe just plain screwed up on the play. They allowed Duclair to get behind them. One of them, if not both of them, had to be aware of Duclair and keep themselves between him and their net.
The Overtime Goal Was Ugly, Too
On the overtime goal, as they did on their first goal in Game 2, the Panthers score on what should be a nothing play. Sam Reinhart enters the Maple Leafs’ zone and rings the puck around the boards to Anton Lundell. Then Reinhart circles behind the Maple Leafs’ net.
Here TJ Brodie makes a huge mistake and just lets Reinhart go. He is one step away from Reinhart when he plays the puck. All Brodie has to do is take one stride forward and Reinhart’s play ends right there. Instead, he turns away from Reinhart. Usually, I would put some blame on the goalie here. In my opinion, an NHL goalie should rarely give up a wraparound goal. In this case, though, the play happens so fast that Joseph Woll doesn’t have a chance.
That was the game in a nutshell.
Would someone please send out a search party for Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares? The goal scorers for the Maple Leafs in this series after three games are Sam Lafferty, Erik Gustafsson, Alex Kerfoot, Ryan O’Reilly, Matthew Knies, and Michael Bunting.
This was not how this was supposed to play out. The big four for the Maple Leafs were supposed to gain momentum as the postseason played out. Getting past the first round was supposed to be this massive hurdle. Finally getting that first-round win was supposed to springboard this team. Then, led by those four players onto bigger and better things.
Instead, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares have all but disappeared. That is the simple harsh reality.
It has been obvious in the past couple of games that Ilya Samsonov has been dealing with something. He was shaken up in the warmup of one of the games in Toronto and had been favouring something in his lower body at times during games.
In this game, he was taken out by a sprawling Luke Schenn, stayed down for quite a while, and left the game. He never returned. It makes me wonder how long he has been dealing with an injury and whether or not he should have been playing at all. We will probably never know the answer to that question.
After getting a lucky goal to go up 2-1 when Gustaffson had a shot deflect off of Marc Staal and into the net, the Maple Leafs ended up giving up an unlucky goal to knot the game at two when a Radko Gudas shot from the point bounced off of the back of Carter Verhaeghe’s leg, and changed direction on Woll.
Not Enough Scoring
Without going into details I have studied what the chances of winning a hockey game are based on the number of goals scored by that team. A team scoring one goal in a game has less than a 5%, or 1 in 20, chance of winning that game. A team scoring two goals has about a 1 in 5 or a 20% chance of winning a game. Three goals give a team a 50-50 chance of coming out ahead. Four goals work out to about a 75% chance of winning.
Regardless of what else we might want to blame being down 3-0 on, be it goaltending, turnovers, defensive breakdowns, refereeing, etc. The main reason the Maple Leafs are 0 for 3 in the second round boils down to not scoring more than two goals in each game.
I have to admit I struggled to write anything good about this game. However, Sam Lafferty’s goal to open the scoring on a two-on-one with David Kampf was a nice goal.
The way the Maple Leafs started this game was also very good. The way they started the third period was also encouraging. Going up 1-0 and 2-1 was great.
Joseph Woll coming off the bench and keeping the Maple Leafs in the game was fantastic. It is too bad it had to end so badly for him. If the Maple Leafs had won that game, who knows what that could have done for Woll’s confidence? It might have also been an omen.
They stated on the broadcast that the last time a Maple Leafs’ goalie won a playoff game in relief was Terry Sawchuck back in 1967. That year, I am sure rings a bell for a lot of Maple Leafs’ fans.
When this season started many of us thought that winning at least one round of the playoffs would be enough to avoid any major changes being made to this team in the offseason. The Maple Leafs did that. They finally broke a 19-year losing streak by taking down the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in round one of the postseason.
But, if this team gets swept by the Florida Panthers, or even wins one game and loses the series in five games, does that make much of a difference? Is it time for us to admit that this team is majorly flawed? I don’t know; or, maybe I just don’t want to admit I know the answer to that.
For all I know, this series might be over, and it probably is.
The Changes for a Comeback Are Small
According to Wikipedia only four teams in the history of the NHL have come back from being down 3-0 in the playoffs and won a series. The Maple Leafs were the first team to do it back in 1942. The other three teams were the New York Islanders in 1975, the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, and the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. That’s four teams out of a total of 203 teams that have gone down 3-0 in a series. That means that, mathematically, this edition of the Maple Leafs has a 1.5% chance of making it to the next round.
Those long odds do not make their next game any less crucial to the future of this team. If they can win one, two, or even three games, it can make this situation a lot less ugly than it appears right now.
And, heck, a 1.5% chance is still a chance. That is what makes being a sports fan so great. Until your team is officially eliminated, anything can happen; and, it sometimes does.
As for the next game in Florida on Wednesday, in my opinion, if Matt Murray is good enough to go in that game, he should be starting. I wrote before this season even started that Kyle Dubas’ job as GM of the Maple Leafs was put on the line when he dealt for Murray. Dubas might as well go down in a blaze of glory.
Besides, wouldn’t it be a great story if Murray game in and backstopped the Maple Leafs to the series win on the road to the Stanley Cup?
I can’t wait to write about it.