We should be used to it by now.
Initially there is some hope with seeing how the Leafs were able to play during the regular season. A team that plays a fast-paced style can go as far as their offense can take them. But it can also come crashing down at any moment.
Being firmly in a playoff spot pretty much all year, this postseason is all we could think about for months on end. Expectations got a little high for what this team could do, and we should be humbled ever so slightly.
The Leafs are facing a team with an aging core and an urge to win right now. They have young peripheral players, but none can compare to our young stars and the potential that they have. Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Backes, and Marchand, will all be decrepit old men when the Leafs will still be playing good hockey.
That matchup just didn’t go Toronto’s way. As echoed throughout every hockey podcast or blog; put the Leafs up against anyone else in the East and they will most likely win that series or take it all the way to the end. This is very speculative, but I would have rather seen what they could have done even against the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning. The two teams that are steamrolling their competition just as the Bruins are doing to our precious team.
With all that said, if Andersen still had a .880 sv% in any series, that’s bad news for the Leafs. So who really knows what would have happened if we ended up facing the Lightning in the first round. Who really knows if the Leafs got lucky on a few chances and Tuukka Rask just fell flat on his face to lose the series? Anything could have happened, but it just didn’t happen the way we wanted it to.
We can ponder all day about the “ifs and buts”, but hockey is the luckiest game on the planet and the Leafs were just unlucky in the majority of this series so far. Naturalstattrick has the Leafs at a 55.56 SCF% at even-strength in the four games played so far – behind the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Leafs have had the ever-so-slight upper hand in even-strength scoring chances throughout this series, that plays out well in a bigger sample size but this is the playoffs where one powerplay can just change an entire team’s reputation.
Everything is fine.
Expectations were increased tenfold compared to last year, unfortunately. Battling the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and pushing them to six games was seen as an accomplishment for a team that finished dead-last the previous season – and it was. But now that the Leafs are seen as a good team that can bring it offensively every night, it was almost assumed that they would be trouble or win against any opponent.
This is just one year removed from everyone proclaiming that they are just “happy to be here” and that not getting swept is a win, that’s a mighty big leap. There’s still positions to improve on and an insane amount of young talent that have not even come close to their potential. This team is in the best position to win in the future among the entire league, a generational young talent and a very good crop of young budding stars that can always bring something offensively.
I know it is really terrible to have patience, especially when the fans have suffered enough for multiple decades, but this team is not that far removed from having Mike Kostka play 22 minutes a game. So let’s all take a deep breath and appreciate where we currently are.
Everything could be much, much worse and you don’t have to look outside our own province to see that.