Toronto Maple Leafs: Top Stories Heading into Playoffs

Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ONTARIO – AUGUST 09: Joonas Korpisalo #70 and Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets shake hands with John Tavares #91 and Jason Spezza #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

Getting Past 1st Round Hump

We all know it has been 17 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs have won a playoff series, but it has only recently become so painfully apparent. In 2017 a young   Leafs team had a gutsy effort, pushing the Washington Capitals to six games.

In 2018 and 2019 Toronto met Boston in the first round and lost both series in seven games.  Last year in the play-in round against Columbus, the Maple Leafs broke our hearts once again by not winning their first series. Four straight years of being bounced in the first round has given Maple Leaf fans anxiety about getting over that first round hump.

The hope this year, is that all of these early exits have been learning experiences for the young core of the  Leafs and that this year is the year they put it all together. I think that it is pretty clear that this is the best opportunity for the  Leafs to get through the first round.

Montreal, of course, will not just lay down and let Toronto skate all over them, but this is not the formidable match up that teams like Tampa Bay and Boston would typically be presenting them. Until the Toronto Maple Leafs get over this first round hump, though, the anxiety from Leafs Nation will be at an all time high.

Elevating Intensity

As we have seen with the playoff series beginning south of the border, the intensity of each game ramps up to a level never seen during the regular season. It has been especially lacking in this North Division, with most games seeming like a scrimmage more than a competitive professional hockey game.

Some of that is due to the condensed schedule, some of it has to do with the fact that the standings have basically been decided since the middle of the season, and a big part of it, in my opinion, has to do with the lack of fans in the building. In the few playoff games so far we have noticed the impact that fans can have in injecting energy into the teams. If the players weren’t fired up before getting out onto the ice they surely got there after walking out to a roaring crowd.

Unfortunately, the Canadian teams will not have the luxury of a raucous crowd pumping energy into the building, so it will be up to the players to inject that energy into their team. The Maple Leafs have been known in recent years as a sort of quiet team that doesn’t do a lot of talking on the bench, according to the various commentators that used to occupy the space between the benches during games.

We haven’t had that particular insight this year, but from watching the games it does seem that the new additions to their team this year have been much more vocal and keeping the other players loose but focused. These veteran players will be crucial in pushing the Maple Leafs intensity levels to where it needs to be successful in the playoffs.