Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski / USA TODAY Sports

Leafs Postgame: Capped Off

It was fun while it lasted. The Toronto Maple Leafs saw their season come to an end tonight, losing 2-1 in overtime to the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of their first-round series against the Presidents Trophy winners. It was an outcome that many ultimately expected at the start of the series but still felt a little short in the end. Here’s what went down:

The Rundown

The game, to be blunt, felt like a constant flow of equal opportunity throughout, with neither team being able to break through and truly have a lethal moment. Any time either team came close to generating a real opportunity. That is, until the luck of the almighty stanchion went their way, leaving Auston Matthews free to do this crazy thing:

Implications aside, moments aside, that’s one of the single best pieces of puck control we’ve seen from Matthews yet or any Leaf in a long time. It put them up when they needed it, too, and it looked like it was going to be a dagger, until..

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The lead was cut short by this equalizer from Marcus Johansson, who just managed to eke it through Frederik Andersen’s pads. This set us up for yet another overtime, and, well…

After having to hear about the importance of the Leafs’ faceoff wins for hours from the broadcast, a loss came back to haunt them.

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Why the Leafs Lost

Honestly, it’s hard to say. This was yet another super tight game. Andersen was spectacular. Toronto did its best to generate chances. The series-winning goal came from a thing they were doing well all game not going well that one time. I guess you can blame Martin Marincin for not being hard enough on the puck on both plays, but it also feels a little crazy to put this loss all on him.

It may have just been a game where they got very slightly outplayed by the best, a thought which encapsulates the series.

Blue Warrior

“The fans, the whole team, etc” would’ve been an easy cop out here that I was prepared to make before puck drop. No chance. Frederik Andersen was spectacular, keeping some scary chances from turning into gut-wrenching goals, and in both of the cases of him conceding, he was only beat by a hair. He showed up when they needed him to; while he couldn’t win the game for the team, he certainly didn’t lose it for them.

See You Next Time

This concludes the season for the Leafs, obviously. But it doesn’t conclude our coverage; we’ll be breaking down the series and the season over the coming days and weeks, and we’ll be looking towards the Marlies’ playoff run, the draft, the offseason, and all sorts of other fun things throughout. It’s a 24/7/365 industry, and we’re not going anywhere. Thank you so much for following allow throughout the year; the best is yet to come.

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  • FlareKnight

    I think why they lost was pretty simple….they were badly outplayed in the third and OT. The team did what they could. But in OT it was basically like an extended powerplay. It was a question of when the Leafs would lose, not if they would lose. Even the third wasn’t a great period. The Leafs would get it to center and occasionally into Washington’s zone without doing anything and Washington would get a clear lane to the net and Andersen would make an awesome save.

    Still a really good season. Sure they lost 3 straight to fall short in this series. But they got here and they made a lot of steps forward. There is clearly work to be done before this team can really beat a cup contender, but they showed they have a lot of talent and potential.

    And that’s it. Now just casually follow the playoffs, maybe keep an eye on the world championships, and wait for the draft. Lou has a busy summer ahead of him. There is work to be done.

    • Stan Smith

      I wouldn’t say they were badly outplayed. The Leafs were trying to open things up in an effort to score, and as a result the Caps had more good scoring chances, but the Leafs still had their chances. Heck, they had three good chances in one shift.

  • DukesRocks

    My heart goes out to the boys in blue. They fought and gave their everything. They made this city proud with the heart they displayed going to 6 one goal game (5 OT). While some may point a finger at a player for this loss. My focus is on a D that played extremely well and held their own against the best team in the NHL. Players like Marincin, Polak and Hunwick have taken a beating from media, writers and fans, but in my opinion, they played the best hockey of their careers to get us to 6 games.
    My focus is on how good our first-year players are and how much better they will be next season, a year older, wiser and stronger. Anderson proved to use he’s a number one. Babs deserves coach of the year.

    The sky’s is the limit and I can hardly wait to see what moves are made to improve this team to a cup caliber team. Yes, we aren’t that far off from being a cup contender.

    • MartinPolak

      I would add Martin to the list of players who take a beating both on and off the ice. And note just how much the team missed the physical play and experience that Polak brought to the leaf defence in this series.

  • NextToAlaska

    Overall a great season, I for one am okay with how it all ended. Everyone worked hard all year and have lots to show for their efforts.

    Great coverage all year by you guys thanks for all the hard work you all put in.

  • Gary Empey

    I think there is some work to do…Not necessarily a lot. The Leafs as the #2 wild card came very close to upsetting the #1 seed. The total shots in the series were 313-311 in favour of the Leafs. The aggregate score was 18-16 for the Caps. It should be interesting to see how Toronto goes about improving the team. This quote from Babcock, after the game, may give you a hint.
    “If you’re a good player and you like winning, this is the best place you could ever play,” said Babcock. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s fantastic. Now we’ve got to have a team to match that opportunity. That’s what we’re going to try grow to.”
    As far as I can tell it looks like the Leafs will draft 17th. Right after Calgary. There should be some good defence prospects available.

    • Robert

      That quote from Babcock was obviously a message to all upcoming free agents and players who may be trade targets that have no movement clauses. He’s telling them that if you want to win and be stars, Toronto is the place to be. Amazing what a difference 365 days can make. This time last year, Toronto was the last place a player would want to be if they wanted to win and be a star. I’m quite sure a lot of players will be removing Toronto from their list of teams they won’t accept a trade to.

  • Glen

    It’s over that’s it that’s all she wrote!. Great year for the young Leafs. This looks like a group that could go a long way in the future, finally hope. Not to go on a rant, but please no more Marincin, enough.

  • MartinPolak

    When Marincin is in the top 4 on defence you see what can happen. Not to blame him for the series, as it was
    extremely close but the loss of Polak show the difference he would make especially with the mistakes made over the last few games. Polak would have limited the Cap PP production where they held an advantage series long and also his experience late in the game would have helped. I still believe with a healthy Polak the leafs would have beaten Caps this series and jeffler would have been wrong but he did get the Cap in 6. With an good upgrade on the defence this team is going places. I don’t really care that I have been right on Martin and Polak this season as much as seeing the team perform so well.

  • paul wodehouse

    this team is going to do very well in plenty good time y’all … be proud leafs nation … taking this bunch called caps to six is HUGE … not as easy as Oilers path … they will be soooo good come ’17-’18 season …

  • ChasinSF

    Great year of foundation building and growth; playoffs were a bonus and opened the eyes of this young group as to what its really all about. As for improvements, everyone knows the defense needs to be improved and I would say get bigger, have you seen St. Louis’ D-men??? The forwards – need more size on the wings and center, combined with some skill. Need to find a spot for Kappinen in the top 6 as well.

  • Justin.PI

    Crazy how Polak has gone from fall guy to would be savior in a matter of a week. Goes to show how so many players go for granted on this team. Great season Buds. Hell of a ride. Matthews locked for Calder, Babcock for Jack Adams?

  • The Russian Rocket

    Great series. I remain steadfast in my belief that JVR-Bozak-Marner looked better than Washington’s 3rd line on paper but they couldn’t take advantage of them enough times. Bozak and JVR had key goals but I was hoping to see them pounce on that match-up and force Trotz to shuffle lines, exposing more opportunities for Matthews, Kadri etc.

  • jimithy

    Nylander was atrocious and JVR was too. The team is just too slow and soft. The shots being even means nothing. Andersen was bailing these guys out time after time with amazing saves on scintillating shots and clear cut chances made possible because of a non existent defense corps. Holtby did not have to deal with point blank shots continually directed his way, just weak rebounds that luckily found the net 213 times. Marincin and Zaitsev on the ice at the same time! Ridiculous. The Leafs rag tag bunch of utility players may have fooled some and dragged this series on for 6 games but if not for Andersen it would have never happened at all.

  • Stan Smith

    This series was about as even as it could be, with the difference IMO coming down to the Caps experience, and a little luck. At lest for this series the Leafs proved that statistically, they were as good as the Caps. Fact is, it wasn’t good enough, and if they want to win the cup they have to be better.

    They did find out what the difference was between regular season NHL and playoff NHL, and that will help them in the future. All in all this was a fantastic season, and the future defintely looks bright.

  • al m

    I’d like to thank Jeff Veillette and the other writers here at Leafs Nation for excellent coverage all season long.

    I’d especially like to thank the excellent group of commenters (including Jeff) that helped me understand so many different ways to view the rebuild so far.
    Cheers guys~!