Nothing But Hope Left for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Three
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Three / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

I’ve always liked the old hockey arena tradition of handing out white towels to the fans so that they can whip themselves into a frenzy and inspire their team to victory.  The Toronto Maple Leafs tried this before Game 4 of their playoff series against the Boston Bruins.

Unfortunately, the towels were used mostly for cleaning nacho cheese and pizza sauce from the faces of the disappointed fans, as the Bruins prevailed 3-1 (stats  Heading back to Boston now, down 3 games to 1, things don’t look promising for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I don’t want to write a eulogy just yet, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are nothing if not unpredictable, and if the Leafs can pull out a lucky win in Game 5, they’re right back in the thick of things.

But where do fans look for at least a bit of hope?  Let’s start with a couple of lineup changes that should have been made for Game 4.

What Can the Toronto Maple Leafs Do Now?

In net, it has been very obvious all series that Ilya Samsonov’s subpar goaltending is a huge handicap that the team simply can’t overcome.  Coach Sheldon Keefe finally admitted his mistake by pulling Samsonov after two periods. Joseph Woll must start the next game, and continue playing until it’s golf season. 

On defense, TJ Brodie should not be playing.  His error led to Boston’s third goal, and the lack of mobility on the Toronto Maple Leafs blue line is killing the team’s offense.  If Timothy Liljegren can’t go, Connor Timmins is the logical replacement.

Up front, Toronto’s lines are a mess.  The highly powered machine that is the “regular season” Leafs offense continues to suffer their annual playoff power outage.  Keefe is hitting all the buttons, but nothing happens when the machine is dead.

The return of William Nylander was supposed to ramp up the offense, but Willy showed signs of rust, despite a good effort.  Mitch Marner continues to struggle, and I suspect that he’s not fully recovered from his high ankle sprain.  Now Auston Matthews has some sort of injury, and his status may be questionable going forward.

Toronto needs to find a way to get more pucks to the net, and have forwards there to screen Boston’s goaltenders, tip pucks and bang in rebounds.  The perimeter game they’ve been forced into by the Bruins is clearly not going to lead to success.

We’re at the point that Sheldon Keefe and his staff are likely coaching for their jobs.  I believe they’re good coaches, and I doubt they will go down without pulling out all the stops.

Similarly, although this lineup may have a little less talent than squads from the previous year or two, they seem to have a lot more heart.

This leads me to expect a different Toronto Maple Leafs approach in Game 4.  Different goalie, re-made forward lines, a new offensive strategy, and an all-out effort from every player.


They might not win, but it won’t be for a lack of trying, and at least it should be highly entertaining.