The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost six seasons in a row in the first round, which is frustrating, but what happened in Game Six is (at least to me) 10x worse than all the losses combined.
In Game Six, you may recall, the Toronto Maple Leafs outscored the Lightning 3-1 at 5v5, where they were the better team, statistically, across the board. Unfortunately, the game officials awarded Tampa a power-play on a “high stick” that was shown to have been a master class in acting, and (technically) should have been a Leafs power-play for diving.
What followed was another penalty, and Tampa scored on a 5-3 goal the Leafs may have even overturned on a challenge, if they’d have risked yet another 5-3. The worst part? That shouldn’t have been the tying goal, since a previously overturned goal by John Tavares turned out to be a bad call.
The Leafs lost only lost game six, and the series, because of a chain of four bad calls by the referees. The Tavares goal, followed by the bad high-sticking call, the Kerfoot penalty that never would have happened if not for the fake high-sticking call that forced the Leafs to kill a 5-on-3, and the fact the tying goal wasn’t overturned. (Stats from naturalstattrick.com).
What the Toronto Maple Leafs Could Have Done Differently
Though it may be hard to see because of all the other losses, this one was a screw-job. The Leafs didn’t break, however, and came out and dominated game seven, posting 63% Corsi, getting 60% of the scoring chances, and losing by a single goal.
Some people have complained the Leafs top line didn’t “show up” for game seven, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Game Six was lost because the NHL let incompetent referees work the most important game of the year, and Game Seven was lost because Tampa’s goalie stared down one of the best games from the best line in hockey and came out on top.
The thing is though, losing by such a thin margin got me thinking: Were there not two major errors the Leafs made?
- They held on to their first round pick at the deadline.
Yeah, Mark Giordano was an awesome addition, but what if they went after a forward? What if they turned Holl/Kerfoot into $5 million and paid big for another star? Could that have been the difference ?
2. Not Playing Timothy Liljegren
The Toronto Maple Leafs panicked when Liljegren got off to a rough playoff start, and they sat him the rest of their series. Considering that for 62 games in the regular season he was their best defenseman in almost every single category, playing him could have been the difference.
As a team, the Leafs were never better than when Liljegren played – goal differential, expected goals, shot-attempts, you name it. He scored the second-most per minute (behind only Rielly) too.
Oh well, hindsight is 20/20, I’m just saying…..