The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t get enough respect, but that’s alright.
Though you’d love to see everyone praising what the Toronto Maple Leafs have built and accomplished over the last three regular seasons instead of going on ad nauseum about tired issues like grit, play-style, and defense.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the this version of the Leafs has never lost in the playoffs due to defense, grit or play style.
You can write off the first two losses as growing experiences, so let’s just look at the last three:
Boston: Lost in Game 7. Reason for Losing: Babcock/Marleau + Kadri suspended (again)
Columbus: Lost in deciding game. Reason for Losing: Columbus sets NHL record for 5v5 save percentage in a single series, one where two different goalies had 50+ save streaks.
Montreal: Lost in Game 7. Reason for Losing: Matthews wrist injury, Tavares plays for 1 minute. Marner, Tavares, Matthews combine for one goal.
I know the team lost, and that it was disappointing. But if you identify a team’s weakness, then they lose FOR ANOTHER REASON, it is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to ignore reality and continue to concentrate on your original hypothesis.
Toronto Maple Leafs Enjoy Being the Favorite and the Underdog
The Leafs are so rich, popular, powerful that they are like the New York Yankees and completely despised everywhere they go, outside of their home town.
Unlike the Yankees, however, most of the hockey reporting is done from Toronto and so people take extra care to make it seem like they aren’t pro-Leafs.
This leads to the Leafs constantly dominating the news (they have the most fans) but usually the talk about them is negative. Since the Leafs are trying to win in a style that goes against the notions of “playoff hockey” and many other long-held hockey beliefs, people really like to take them down.
The net effect of all this is that the Leafs – who are fifth overall in the NHL, fourth in expected-goals and first in special teams are not considered by most pundits to be a serious threat to win a championship. (all stats naturalstattrick.com and current prior to Friday night).
A team who won nearly 80% of its games for nearly half a season, a team with two of the four best players in the entire world on it, a team with more stars, and more depth than anyone else in hockey.
A team with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie and Jake Muzzin somehow doesn’t get respect.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are fourth overall with the 5th worst goaltending in the NHL. That might seem alarming, but ever team that outperforms its goaltending will do better in the future, because the goaltending will always go up if its down.
The fact is that if the Leafs had even league-average goaltending they’d be running away with the President’s Trophy. The media should give the NHL’s obvious best team a little more respect, that’s all I’m saying. I know they’ll get it after they win, which they most likely will. But an arbitrary result shouldn’t prevent anyone from doing their job.