Knee Jerk Reaction: The Game 7 dragon is too tough for the Maple Leafs to slay

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
I guess it was inevitable.
That bad feeling you had in your stomach since Game Four is now justified and I guess kudos to the Leafs for delaying this moment with strong efforts in Game 5 and 6 and holding on for as long as possible in Game 7.
William Nylander and Auston Matthews showed up. Mitch Marner showed up but inexplicably kept mistaking Joel Edmundson for Auston Matthews. Ilya Samsonov kept the Leafs going all through Game 7 after starting on short notice and repairing his reputation from earlier in the series. He’s still unlikely to be returning to the Leafs next season but I guess he can part on good terms.
Most of Game 7 looked like two teams trying not to lose and not particularly trying to win. Auston Matthews and William Nylander connecting gave the Leafs a brief promising moment of hope but unfortunately it also seemed to wake the sleeping giant.
I guess at the end of the day the story was the Leafs were good but not good enough, a bit of a running theme for the team and one that should finally be met with the realization you can’t keep on running back “very good” hockey, the Leafs need to make changes that will attempt to push them into the “great” status of teams. I’m sure there will be plenty of time to dissect and eulogize the Leafs in the coming days, and I don’t doubt that it will be a busy week for the Maple Leafs HR department.
This is supposed to be about the game at hand, and I guess when reacting to that there is a reminder that big players show up in big moments and David Pastrnak reminds us that despite having a bad series, you can’t take give him space.
Both Marner and Rielly seemed forget who it was that was coming into the zone and while they were further away from the play no one is going to excuse the effort from Ilya Lyubushkin or William Nylander on that play either. Not the Leafs finest moment and once again it comes at the worst possible time.
If you want a positive spin on things from this game and series, playing without Nylander and Matthews for stretches certainly hurt the Leafs. Toronto also received promising performances from players like Matthew Knies, Pontus Holmberg, and Connor Dewar that the team can build around. Joseph Woll when he’s healthy is absolutely someone the Leafs should be excited about having in goal. The more physical blueline had its benefits but the Leafs need to upgrade the personnel in that archetype not run back the players they have, but once again I’m getting too far into the future, and the worst thing I can do right now is say who should be shipped out before the Leafs have even had a chance to clean out their lockers.
So yeah, it’s been a year. Lots of highs and lows and at least everyone is used to it ending this way. It’s less sad and more tradition at this point. It would be a nice tradition to break, but for now I’m going to focus on spending time in those outdoors I keep on hearing about.

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