Toronto Maple Leafs On the Verge of a Great Victory

Feb 8, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner (16)celebrates a goal by Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner (16)celebrates a goal by Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the verge of a great victory.

In 2015, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished last in the NHL standings, won the draft lottery and were gifted with the best player in franchise history, Auston Matthews.

What followed was a surprise trip to the playoffs when Matthews lived up to the hype and instantly become one of the NHL’s best players at the age of 18.

The Leafs made the playoffs and almost upset future Champions the Washington Capitals.  The next season the Leafs embarked on the first of two back-to-back first round losses to the Bruins.  Though their fans took the loses pretty poorly,  the Leafs took a legacy team with a Stanley Cup under their belts who’d been among the best teams in hockey for years to the very brink, despite some questionable decisions by Nazem Kadri.

These losses were hard, but expected. Few players waltz to a championship in their first years in the league.  The need for experience through playoff adversity in building a champion is a well worn NHL cliché, but like most clichés contains at least some truth.

In year four the Leafs were no longer underdogs, but a coaching change, a pandemic and a massively random play-in cost them another year. The Jackets series saw the Leafs dominate but fail to score on Columbus’ suddenly unbeatable goalies.  Annoying, but getting goalied is another hockey cliché and it happens.

Enter the Montreal Canadiens in year five.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal

The Leafs haven’t failed for four years – they’ve gained experience.  Those losses were tough to sit through, but they were the necessary steps of a perennial champion contender.  The time to step up and go from a young team on the verge, to a great team showing how it’s done is now.

The NHL playoffs are never easy, but with a win tonight the Leafs take that step that we all wish came sooner, but which is the hardest step of all – the one that says you have arrived.

The Leafs have built a team that is fast, tenacious, talented,  and deep.  They’ve got talent at every position and can beat opponents in multiple ways.  Their failures so far were not so bad because they were partly expected as the necessary growth of a young team.

dark. Next. Recapping the 1st Round

That can’t happen now.  The Canadiens will be on home ice and have some fans at their back (assuming most of them didn’t hock their tickets to rich Leafs fans living in Quebec) but the Toronto Maple Leafs need to decisively show the world that they are a Champion Caliber team.  It’s now or never.