Toronto Maple Leafs: Blood, Sweat, Tears, and the Same Results

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

When It Matters Most

You have to play well enough during the regular season to make the playoffs. From there, you need to beat four teams in four seven-game series. That’s tough regardless of the matchup.

In the first round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs were up against their longtime rivals, the Montreal Canadians. It was the first time since 1979 that the two teams played each other in the playoffs.

Most fans and analysts had the Leafs winning the series, with some calling for a four-game sweep. Considering how both teams fared in the regular season, it wasn’t a far fetch.

Right out of the gate, the Habs’ physicality became an issue. They totaled 55 hits, compared to Toronto’s 27. Turnovers and odd-man rushes combined with poor execution cost the Leafs Game 1. It also didn’t help that captain John Tavares left the game with a horrifying concussion.

Come Game 2, Matthews led the team to an offensive explosion. Toronto scored two power-play goals after the team scored only once on their past 21 chances over their previous eight games. Scoring five goals was enough for Toronto to tie the series.

Their power play resumed their struggles, not scoring on any of their five chances. Campbell’s stellar performance held the Habs to only one goal on 29 shots. That was enough for Morgan Rielly’s second-period snipe to stand as the game-winning goal.

Game 4 was the second night of back-to-back games in Montreal, and Campbell carried over his momentum. He stopped all 32 shots from the Canadiens; meanwhile, Alex Kerfoot racked up three assists. At this point, Toronto needed to win one of the following three games to win the series.

The Leafs started slowly, which allowed the Canadiens to score two goals early, and another in the third. While Toronto would come back and force overtime in the third period, another costly turnover allowed Nick Suzuki to score on a two on 0.

It would take over 45 minutes of game-time for either team to score, with Corey Perry the first to get on the scoresheet. The 2,500 fans in the stands were loud and clear. Eventually coming back and forcing overtime once again, Toronto turns the puck over (AGAIN), and Jesperi Kotkaniemi ends the game.

The Toronto Maple Leaf’s worst nightmare, Game 7, approached quickly. Fast enough that no Leaf would score until the final two minutes of the game. The Toronto Maple Leafs, once again, gave up a comfortable lead to get booted from the playoffs.

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The Game 7 loss marks the eighth consecutive series-clinching game that Toronto lost. For a team that had Stanley Cup aspirations, their team fell drastically short than they should have. It marks one of, if not the most disappointing seasons in the franchise’s history.