Well, that game one sure was something if not entertaining. Though my friend accurately described it as “a combination of every Leafs game they’d ever seen”, it definitely threw a little scare into this season’s President’s Trophy winners.
The Leafs did fall 3-2 after holding a 2-0 lead, but at times looked as good or better than the Washington Capitals who won a lot of hockey games this year and didn’t lose very many.
So we asked our staff: did Game 1 give you more or less confidence in this team’s ability to hold its own in a playoff series?
Leafs fans, you should be happy with the team’s performance in game 1. The Wilson goal was an unlucky one, and surely one they’d like to have back, but the Leafs showed that they can play with these Caps and compete. If Frederik Andersen can play the way he has and if the Leafs can continue to minimize Ovi’s impact, the Leafs could play upset and steal more than just a game or two. Something to look out for is the Bozak line playing against Eller’s line. That’s where the Leafs seem to have a true mismatch and with talents like JVR and Marner, they could see a ton of production from that line.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to watch the game yet, which is unfortunate, but from as far as I can tell they played right with the Capitals in terms of shots which is a good sign. Once the game goes to OT it’s more or less a coin flip and for the Leafs to get that close to stealing game one on the road is encouraging, especially sans Nikita Zaitsev. They also did so while giving the Capitals three powerplays to their one, so if they’re able to draw a couple more penalties while taking one or two less themselves on Saturday they could still steal one in Washington. Long story short, yes game one gave me more confidence the Leafs can hold their own against the Capitals. I was always confident they could hold their own in a playoff series in general, but to get the toughest draw and still come out strong is nice.
Even though game 1 ended in typical Leafs fashion, it did give me confidence for two reasons.
First of all, Toronto really did play well for most of the game. The third period was not Toronto’s best stretch of hockey, but for periods 1 and 2, the Leafs were the better team. They realized that they’re not only able to keep up with the Caps, but that they’re able to beat them if they play the right way.
Second, despite the win, I think last night spooked Washington a bit. They’re probably aware that 2 of their 3 goals shouldn’t have gone in and, more importantly, that this Toronto team can keep pace with them. I wonder if they thought this series would be a cakewalk… Last night showed it won’t be.
The Leafs game last night did give me confidence in this team’s ability to win this series, but not necessarily this one. While it felt a lot better to lose in overtime than say, getting blown out, the Leafs still exited game one in Washington down 1-0 in the series. And while moral victories are cool and all, their odds of winning the series definitely decreased after failing to come out on top.
So maybe it’s a pure mathematical answer, but the Leafs losing gives me less confidence for them to take this particular series, but more confidence to take one in the future. The core roster, plus the majority of the supplemental pieces will remain the same next season, and it’s not hard to imagine they won’t be playing an 118-point opponent in round one. With the way they played last night, if nothing else, they showed they certainly belong in the playoffs.
One game doesn’t tell you much about a team’s quality and I was too nervous to overly analyze the team’s play all that well, but I think we can all take from last night that getting into the playoffs was no fluke for the Leafs.