Maple Leafs goal to whole playoff struggles in ‘new season’

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs were all smiles when they gathered for the legit 2021-22 team recount on the Scotiabank Arena ice Wednesday. With Auston Matthews having scored his 60th goal of the season when Toronto clinched home ice for the first spherical of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-0 seize against the Detroit Purple Wings 15 hours earlier, there used to be hundreds of goal to be jovial.

Nonetheless here is the actuality of the fret: If the Maple Leafs stumble within the early stages of the postseason yet all any other time, one among the ideal traditional seasons of their on the subject of 105-Twelve months historical past, for individual players and the team itself, will extinguish will a dour mood.

“All the accolades attain when the team is doing effectively. Adore, you win individual awards and stuff within the conventional season, and or no longer it is mountainous. Nonetheless attain playoff time this stuff don’t indicate mighty,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said with a vivid snicker.

“It be a new season, essentially, and we must beginning breaking recordsdata in [the] playoffs I wager, so to discuss. So or no longer it is elevate it day-to-day, win moving for Sport 1 and toddle from there.”

After closing out their traditional season against the Boston Bruins on Friday, the Maple Leafs will play Sport 1 of the Japanese Convention First Round at home having clinched second residing within the Atlantic Division. They are going to face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning or the Bruins, who reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.

Either system, playoff expertise and success is perchance no longer on their facet.

Muzzin and forward Kyle Clifford are essentially the most efficient contributors of the Maple Leafs who possess received the Stanley Cup, with the Los Angeles Kings (Muzzin in 2014, Clifford in 2012 and 2014). As such, Muzzin understands the grind, the energy and the sweat it takes to endure within the postseason.

The majority of his teammates cannot make that claim.

Since 2016-17, the Maple Leafs, with a core of forwards Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander and defenseman Morgan Rielly, possess licensed for the Stanley Cup Playoffs each season and did now not seize a chain. Final season, Toronto they blew a 3-1 lead in essentially the most attention-grabbing-of-7 first spherical to the rival Montreal Canadiens, who went on to attain the Cup Final.

On every occasion, the season ended with a melancholy locker room with players questioning what came about.

Toronto’s playoff stumbles crawl mighty longer than that. The Maple Leafs possess no longer received a playoff sequence in 18 years since defeating the Ottawa Senators in seven video games within the 2004 Japanese Convention Quarterfinals.

For point of view in terms of that drought, help in mind this: Benefit then the center-ice crimson line used to be composed being used to note two-line offside passes.

Or this: Ed Belfour used to be the Maple Leafs’ starting goalie within the sequence against the Senators. He retired in 2008 and used to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

Aloof, these Maple Leafs possess lots to be optimistic about.

Toronto residing its single-season recordsdata for a range of features (113) and victories (53), and scored 300 targets for the first time in 32 years; it has 307 via 81 video games. Matthews, a center, scored essentially the most targets by a Toronto player in a single season and grew to become the first United States-born player in NHL historical past to rating 60 in a season. Marner, a excellent-attempting hover, residing a Maple Leafs file for assists by a hover with (he has 62 with one game ultimate).

Any other one-and-done attain playoff time, and this would possibly per chance well perchance also possess been enraged by naught, at the least within the rapid time interval. No less than one of the most necessary core players possess bounced help to possess a profession season after the gut-wrenching elimination against the Canadiens.

“I mediate that’s what all of us try for is to develop and win better,” Matthews said. “We can mutter some extra motivation from past losses and stuff take care of that. That is the goal yearly, whether as a particular person or as a team, is to win better and be essentially the most attention-grabbing version of yourself it is most likely you’ll perchance also additionally be daily, and precise more or less toddle from there.

“I mediate all of us acknowledge that, however the team success comes first. What we’re searching to present and develop into with playoff time here into the spring, I mediate that’s the goal now we possess all been searching to work in direction of.”

Coach Sheldon Keefe, who modified Mike Babcock on Nov. 20, 2019, has never coached Toronto for a playoff game with a beefy home in attendance at Scotiabank Arena as a result of COVID-19 rules that restricted capability. Though he’s having a peep forward to seeing followers within the stands for Sport 1 subsequent week, he understands that the conventional-season accomplishments of his players lift miniature to no weight as soon as the postseason begins.

“The right achievements themselves, the milestones, when the playoffs beginning, every person’s going help to zero,” Keefe said. “So from that extinguish of it I don’t mediate they necessarily possess a whole lot of emphasis or matter a mountainous deal.

“The immense thing I would screech, despite the indisputable reality that, is we prefer our players feeling excellent and warranted and all that. To that extinguish our players, virtually to a man, now we possess had guys having profession years here offensively and defensively, whatever it is miles going to also be. So from that extinguish, and for that share of it, we’re feeling excellent and our guys possess a whole bunch causes to make sure going into the playoffs.”

So, for that matter, does Keefe, who used to be beaming with delight in the course of the recount shoot Wednesday.

“It be special in narrate to educate the Leafs, or no longer it is no longer relevant what the team at the help of you has carried out,” he said. “It be an even thing, however this neighborhood, specifically, has given me a whole bunch goal to be at liberty with the work they establish in. To win up to now, in my behold, in essentially the most competitive division within the NHL and toddle into the first spherical of the playoffs with home-ice support, is a testomony to the work that the neighborhood has establish in.

“So or no longer it is good to sit down there. Nonetheless, you understand, we would per chance take care of to possess one other team recount when here is all said and done with some trophies.”

Winning a postseason sequence for the first time in virtually two a long time would be a first rate beginning.

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