The Toronto Maple Leafs played the first two periods like a team that had the flu, and reports indicate that’s true.
It’s that time of the year when everyone is getting sick, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are no different.
After falling behind 5-0 after two periods against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, their antibiotics must have kicked in because they turned into a different team. We’ve seen the Leafs score in bunches in the past but can’t remember a turn of events like this before.
The last game that comes to memory is their 4-3 overtime win against the Blue Jackets in August 2020 during the Covid playoffs. The Leafs were down 3-0 in the third period but rallied with three third-period goals, and then Auston Matthews scored the eventual winner in overtime, sending zero fans home happy.
It was the greatest game that nobody attended, and we all thought it would spark Toronto to a Stanley Cup victory that year. However, in pure Leafs fashion, they lost the next game, and their season ended abruptly.
Toronto Maple Leafs Comeback, But Can’t Win
In a somewhat similar fashion in Thursday night’s game against Columbus, the Leafs pulled off the miracle and rallied back to a 5-5 tie, but they ultimately lost when it mattered. 3-on-3 overtime is a coin-toss, but I really thought Toronto could pull this one out, but obviously, that never happened.
As previously mentioned, according to Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun, a flu bug has infiltrated the Leafs dressing room, so players haven’t been at 100 percent.
One of the players who went down first with a flu bug was Ilya Samsonov, who was sidelined last week. After his performance on Thursday night, it felt like he may still be sick.
He allowed six goals on 35 shots and looked shaky all night. The defense let him down on half of the goals, but the third and fourth goals he allowed should have been stops, especially since the team desperately needed them, as they were already in a deficit.
Although this was a fantastic comeback, this game told us everything we already knew about the Leafs roster. When their top-four forwards play their best, they can beat anyone and score whenever they want. However, their defense and goaltending aren’t elite enough to keep up with the offense.
Until the Leafs address their defensive issues, Toronto is going to continue playing games that go to overtime, and their offensive prowess won’t win them hockey games.
It’s fantastic to know that Auston Matthews is back to the level of a top-two player in hockey, but until the team gets better defensively, they won’t have a chance to win four playoff rounds this year.