How much of a playoff run will the Maple Leafs have this year?

Photo credit:© Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
7 days ago
Game one takes place tomorrow night and as of last night the NHL bracket is now set. With those logisitics out of the way it’s time to ask The Leafs Nation writers how far they think the Leafs will make it this year and why…

Arun Srinivasan

The 2023-24 Maple Leafs open themselves to a wide range of outcomes, ranging from a six-game exit at the hands of the Bruins, to the Stanley Cup victory we’ve all dreamt about for decades. This circumvents the question, however, so I’ll say the Maple Leafs lose in the second round to the Florida Panthers. All bets are off if the Maple Leafs defeat the Bruins and finally exorcise their proverbial demon, but the Panthers are superior in almost every facet of the game, they don’t get rattled, they’re an elite shot-creation and shot-suppression team and while Auston Matthews will be a Selke finalist, Florida boasts the two others in Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart.
If the Maple Leafs beat the Bruins and Panthers, however, they’re winning it all and the remainder of my posts for the year will be soaked in tears.

Michael Mazzei

The Leafs proved last spring that they have what it takes to close out a series and not let the pressure get to them. While they exercised one demon, there is still plenty more they need to tackle and that starts with the giant Bear in the room down in Boston. I am willing to believe that the Leafs can make this a good series, but I am also scarred not only by how the regular season series went between these two teams but also the previous three playoff matchups. The Bruins are very much still inside the Leafs’ heads and that to me is why it is not easy to predict how this series may play out.
They could either finally beat Boston and go on a deep run or have the same outcome of the last six matchups with the Bruins. Either way, this series will take years off my life for the amount of stress that is to come my way.

Shane Seney

The Maple Leafs are capable of beating a Patrice Bergeron-less Bruins team in a seven-game playoff series and there’s a very good chance it goes 7. If they do, I’m expecting them to make it to the Eastern Conference Final. Carolina scares me a lot so I don’t have much hope for the Leafs to get passed them if they end up seeing their worlds collide.  I think the Leafs have shown, only in stretches, but they’ve shown they’re capable of putting it all together.  I think they’ve found something with the lineup, I think the stars are ready to lead the way and I’m very comfortable with how much secondary scoring is available.  They do something they haven’t done in decades this year and win at least two rounds.

James Reeve

It’s always difficult to predict how the Leafs will do when faced with the playoffs. Years where confidence has been at its highest the team has fallen short but last year they finally got over the first round hump and that experience could make this year’s tilt against the Bruins far more interesting. The next demon they need to extinguish is their inability to beat the Bruins in the postseason, so why not go for it in a year where Matthews just missed out on 70 goals? Defence, goaltending and how the core perform will be the story of the series, but if they are all aligned then they can at least get to the second round. I don’t believe this team can go all the way, however, so reaching the second round should be viewed as success in my opinion.

Bennett Jull

I think there are 5-6 teams that could represent the East, and another 5-6 teams that could win the West. As always, the Atlantic Division is as formidable as any. For the Leafs to even make the Conference final, they will have to slay the beast that is Boston, and then dispatch either Florida or Tampa Bay. That’s a pretty big ask, but that’s exactly what I think they will do. Unfortunately, if my predictions are accurate, I see them falling in the Eastern Conference final to either Carolina or the Rangers (coin flip, but I’ll say Carolina). I think this team has been constructed to do well in playoffs. Domi and Bertuzzi had notably slow starts this year, but undoubtedly have turned their years around in quite some fashion. They also have put up strong numbers in previous playoffs. Edmundson brings more playoff experience and success than the rest of the team combined. I have 34 leading the Leafs through two rounds!

Alex Hobson

I learned my lesson trying to predict how Leafs playoff series will go when they lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the bubble, but for the purpose of the article, I’ll swallow my pride and suggest a conference final exit. I think, provided they abandon just about everything they did in their final four games of the season, they have the intangibles and the flexibility offensively to spread out their offence and figure out a way around the Bruins’ string back end. The momentum boost from beating the Bruins will propel them enough to get through the second round, but they’ll get a taste of reality in the conference final similar to how they did last year. This team, provided most of them stick together and they grow as a unit, can eventually win a cup with some extra pieces. I don’t think they have those pieces this year, but I think they’re strong enough to build on last season, especially now that they don’t have the “win a round” demon hanging over their heads.

Joseph Zita

Throughout the past seven playoff appearances for the Toronto Maple Leafs, we’d be a fool if we said we realistically thought they were going all the way. In fact, I was always optimistic about them but knew deep down they would always be a first-round exit until they proved otherwise. Well, last year, they proved otherwise, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, advancing to the second round for the first time in nearly two decades. But for this year, they see themselves head to head against a team they haven’t beaten in a playoff series and haven’t found much success against over the past two seasons. Is it possible for the Maple Leafs to win this series? Of course. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs. Anything can happen. Ask Boston about their first-round series last year. One noteworthy thing this team doesn’t have going into the playoffs compared to other years is the first-round demon that haunted them for six years before getting over the hump last spring. And I guess for the sake of this article, I’ll say the Maple Leafs make an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, pending the result of the Panthers-Lightning series. If Florida defeats Tampa Bay, my answer might change to a second-round exit for Toronto. For the first time in a long time, the Maple Leafs have players who play playoff-style hockey and can actually contribute on the scoreboard. Whether it’s Bertuzzi or Domi or rookies Knies or McMann, or the others, the forward group is as deep as it has ever been while adding a bit of “piss and vinegar”, to quote Brad Treliving, and I honestly think they have what it takes to be a great supporting cast to the big guys. On defence, it’s evident that Treliving has a type. After bringing in Benoit, Edmundson and Lyubushkin, he’s stocking up on big, heavy, physical blue-liners who thrive in situations like the one Toronto is about to enter. We’ll have to wait and see if this team truly is different with the changes the front office has made, but for now, that is my prediction.

Jon Steitzer

No one likes a pessimist but I’m not sure how much optimism the Leafs history provides us with. Anyone can go on a run and the Leafs are capable of hanging with the Bruins despite their regular season record and the new look Leafs are certainly capable of pushing back harder on a team like the Panthers as well if that is their second-round opponent. Could the Leafs then knock off the Rangers, Hurricanes, or whomever comes out of the Metropolitan Division? Absolutely. The West has long been the friend of the Maple Leafs and you can absolutely see how there is an attainable path to the Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs and in a time of year when anything could happen, why couldn’t this be the year where things go right for the Maple Leafs?
Okay, now the pessimism. The Bruins swept the Leafs this season including two 4-1 losses in March. There have been a couple of revelations since then that could make a difference like the new look Matthews line and a tougher defence but is that enough to take four games out of seven tries? Probably not. For me it comes down to coaching and goaltending. The Bruins having two top tier options to rely on as well as the questions about Sheldon Keefe’s ability to adapt in a seven-game series still remain and that makes it feel like an uphill battle for getting out of the first round.
Now is your opportunity to tell us what you think. Let us know in the comment section or our mentions with your prediction for how far the Maple Leafs make it.

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