Johnny Toronto scores the OT winner to send the Leafs to Round 2 for the first time in 19 years: Muzzy’s Muzings
Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga25 days ago
THEY DID IT. THEY FINALLY DID IT.
John Tavares potted the winner early in the first overtime as the Leafs edged the Lightning 2-1 in Game 6 to secure the franchise’s first series victory since 2004. It’s weird even typing this.
At any rate, the Leafs persevered. As expected, the Lightning gave them everything they could handle, and then some. By far, Ilya Samsonov was the biggest story. He made 31 stops and indisputably, he was probably single-handedly the biggest reason Toronto came away with the victory. What a performance!
The Leafs, who won three games in overtime in the series, will play either the Boston Bruins or the Florida Panthers in Round 2.
Auston Matthews kicked off the scoring in the second period with his fifth of the series before Steven Stamkos tied things up early in the third period.
I still can’t believe it. Time to enjoy it for a few days.
THEY WEATHERED THE EARLY STORM
With many thanks to Ilya Samsonov, the Leafs found a way to escape serious damage in the first period despite another nervous and timid start. Once again, they had puck management issues which led directly to several high-danger opportunities for the Lightning. When that happens, it puts a lot of strain on not only the defence but also the goaltender. But full credit to Samsonov for answering the bell in a big way. Furthermore, I thought it was a statement period for him.
SAMMY STATEMENT GAME
I said it going into the night and it stood true: Ilya Samsonov was the key. The Russian netminder made 31 stops and improved to 4-0-0 in his career at Amalie Arena. He was phenomenal. If it weren’t for him, there’s no way the Leafs find a way to win that game. He made some big-time stops and went toe-to-toe with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s pretty much Mariano Rivera in potential elimination games. Not this time, Big Cat.
THE CORE FOUR
They grinded. What more can I say? All things being equal, it was only fitting that one of the big dogs scored the biggest goal for this organization in 19 years. John Tavares, who left Long Island in the summer of 2018 to come home, did the honours. Bottom line: They found a way to get the job done —plain and simple.
As I sit here typing away in my Liberty Village condo, it’s absolute pandemonium outside. And understandably so. It’s been a long, long road for this team and a good chunk of these players. They’ve worked so hard to build to this moment. In the moment, it’s hard to lose sight of the end game: The Stanley Cup. Furthermore, I love the professionalism post-game in acknowledging the moment but also understanding that this is just the beginning of hopefully a long journey.
As mentioned, the Leafs will play either Boston or Florida in the second round. Those two squads will square off in Game 7 Sunday night.
Recent articles from Nick Alberga