Toronto Maple Leafs Will Start the Long Road Back Tonight

David Savard #58 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
David Savard #58 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs will attempt to get back in the win column tonight in Carolina against their old friend Freddie Andersen.

The Toronto Maple Leafs 7-1 loss on Saturday was certainly a bad game, and certainly all the critics (of which their are many) are out sharpening their forks.

Unfortunately for those who wan to see the this team fail, they won’t.  (And there are an absolute ton of disgruntled boomers out there weirdly concerned about the young team’s fashion choices, as well as a lot of NHL media members and executives who don’t like one thing about Kyle Dubas and who are watching last season’s playoffs and this year’s one single bad game with great relish).

Too bad for the shradenfreuders that the math is squarely in the Leafs corner.  For those who haven’t yet heard, the Leafs are last in the NHL in shooting percentage, and have scored just 12 goals in their first six games.

If the Leafs were playing poorly, if they had deserved to lose to Montreal and played to their current record, those people would be justified.  Unfortunately for them, the Leafs win a lot of games when Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner score, which is something they haven’t done lately, but will for sure do eventually.

What you’re seeing on line and hearing on the radio since Saturday night is a premature victory lap from people Kyle Dubas bet his whole career on being smarter than.

Guess what? He’s still smarter than those people.

Sometimes you lose with pocket aces, and sometimes you get dealt kings and lose again.  It happens.  But the Leafs have spent five years building an awesome team and they’ve gone through the trenches to learn how to lose.

That experience will pay off.  The fact that they are the only team to correctly operate under a salary cap will eventually pay off.  The most important thing they can do is stay the course right now, not let any outside negativity cloud their minds, put their heads down and work hard.

And that is exactly what they’ll do.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning

It’s going to take a long time to win back the unbelievers.  That’s OK.  One playoff series should do the trick.  As for the team and their ability to recover from this, it won’t be all that hard.

The Toronto Maple Leafs should just look to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  In 2018-19 the Lightning were the best regular season team in years (perhaps ever if you adjust for the era) and they lost to the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs. ( for most stats).

Cries of “they are just regular season wonders who can’t win in the playoffs” abounded.

Then they started the next season a bit wonky.  They were 2-3.  They were barely .500 heading into the last week of November when they lost three in a row, then four out of five as December started.  Then it was five out of seven.  Then they finally won back to back games, only to lose three of the next four. Things were looking like maybe the critics were right.

The Lightning’s woes culminated December 21st with a loss to Washington which was the end of a 13 game stretch where they won only 3 times in regulation.  The Lightning were 22nd in the NHL overall at this point. They were sixth in Corsi, 5th in Expected-Goals.  (Tampa Stats From Here).

Is any of this sounding familiar?

The Lightning were playing great, but their all-situations goaltending was under .900%.  Things were looking bleak, fans didn’t believe in the team, and experts repeatedly said you couldn’t win with the way their team was constructed.  (Damn, it’s like they have a script or something).  I guess people just couldn’t comprehend that you could be unlucky in the playoffs, then go on an unlucky run to start the next season.  But it’s true, you can.

Next. A Series Of Thoughts On Negativity In the NHL. dark

After all that,  something crazy happened. They won ten in a row on their way to a 20 and 3 run.  Then they won two straight Stanley Cups.  The Toronto Maple Leafs will be fine.