The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins last night, with about half their lineup taking a rest.
The final score was 5-2, William Nylander scored a couple of nice ones, no one was hurt, and now it’s official: The Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in round one of the NHL playoffs.
The Leafs finish the regular season 4th overall, with a 71% points-percentage, and a team record 54 wins and 115 points. ( Its the kind of response to last year’s playoff upset against Montreal that will cement the Kyle Dubas era in Toronto for years to come).
It doesn’t even matter if they lose to Tampa, because that is a ridiculous opponent, and a reflection of how bad the NHL is run as a league.
Toronto Maple Leafs Will Win in Five
Still, I’m glad it’s Tampa because a loss to Boston might require a change of management (even though it would be the wrong move, it would happen). A loss to Tampa has no consequences, other than everyone will agree the NHL needs to change their seeding rules.
So as long as the Leafs don’t lose in four straight, you can expect Shanahan and Dubas to announce that they have signed contract extensions as soon as the season is over.
That’s a fantastic reward to all of us who have watched a great team run into bad luck repeatedly, and who have had to put up with the whiners who have complained at every stop along the way of this rebuild. When I think of how much a Kyle Dubas extension will bother some of this team’s worst fans, that’s like my own personal Stanley Cup.
But it turns out Dubas was right. About everything. He was right about having a skill first lineup, he was right about the salary cap, he was right about the players he invested in.
Basically, Dubas has been right at every turn, and the protectionist, old-school types who hated him because he was young and because he was chosen instead of outdated geezers like Babcock and Lamoriello, have been completely embarrassed. .
Even his worst critics should probably be happy though – the Leafs have never had a better chance to win the Cup, and this team looks to be loaded for years to come.
To finish 4th overall while posting the 27th overall 5v5 save percentage makes what the Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished this season even better. Teams that outperform their goalies are better than they seem, just as teams who rely on their goalies are worse than they seem. This is because the recent performance of a goalie has almost no bearing on how he’ll perform in the future – goalies are unpredictable, so the better teams are the teams who succeed despite them.
And that is why I believe the Leafs will destroy Tampa in this upcoming series.
Auston Matthews could not shoot the puck last year in the playoffs. He had wrist surgery immediately after the season, and if he could have shot the puck against Montreal, the Leafs would have won easily.
The Leafs have the best player, and therefore they are likely to win. In fact, Mitch Marner is probably better than anyone on Tampa (that is saying a lot, because they have a lot of the world’s best players) so the Leafs are a lock.
Barring bad luck, some crazy goalie performance etc. they will do away with their ghosts and defeat the Cup Champs, finally earning the respect they’ve long deserved.
The Leafs in five.