by Stan Smith & The Old Prof
Who would have ever thought the Toronto Maple Leafs would find themselves in the situation they are presently in? We don’t think anyone could have foreseen the team finally breaking the 19-year drought by defeating the two-time Stanley Cup Champion, and three-time finalist Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round but then going down three games to none to a Florida Panthers team that finished 19 points behind them in the standings.
The Panthers Have Been a Surprise, But So Were the Canadiens
Really, who would have thought the Panthers, who finished a staggering 43 points behind the Boston Bruins would be in the second round of the postseason at all?
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised about the situation. We don’t have to look too far in the past to see the exact same scenario unfolded just two seasons ago. The Montreal Canadiens opened the 2021 postseason as massive underdogs to the Maple Leafs.
After winning the first game (a game in which John Tavares was injured) in that series, the Canadiens lost the next three to go down 3-1 in that series. They stormed back to win three in a row and the series. They carried that momentum through to the next round and swept the Winnipeg Jets in four games.
Fans Called for Florida, Now They Got Them
We keep seeing visions of Maple Leafs fans chanting “We want Florida! We want Florida!” in the post-game celebration following the team’s elimination of the Lightning. Well, those fans got their wish.
Now the problem is just how to beat this surprisingly successful Florida team.
If the Maple Leafs Were Destined to Lose, Which Way Is Better or Worse?
This situation was not supposed to happen – we keep repeating it to ourselves. Once the Maple Leafs finally got passed the first-round jinx, the momentum from that win was supposed to catapult them to bigger and better things.
Instead, it seems even worse. It has subjected the team, and its fans, to an even bigger failure and disappointment.
What is worse? The disappointment of going 20 years without winning a round; or, going from the jubilation of getting past that hurdle only to come crashing back to earth with such a miserable performance in the second round? Somehow this situation feels much worse.
Who’s Fault Is the Current Situation?
Anyone who is following the media, be it sports media or social media, can see that there is plenty of blame to go around. Everyone from general manager Kyle Dubas, to head coach Sheldon Keefe, right down to the 13th forward the seventh and eighth defensemen have been castigated.
We’re surprised no one has blamed this situation on the Zamboni driver (Sorry. Bad memory there).
To be honest, none of the critics are wrong. Pinpointing just one problematic aspect or one problematic area of the team and its play is difficult. The failures are multi-faceted. The team has come up short in pretty much every area of their game, coaching, offence, defence, and goaltending.
Maybe that is why the situation is so frustrating.
There’s Only One Task at Hand – for Now
For now, how the team has arrived at where it finds itself isn’t relevant to the task at hand. Dissecting and analyzing what has gone wrong is more of a task for the offseason. Right now the only immediate concern is what the team does moving forward. Can they dig themselves out of this mess?