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Toronto has bounced back from bad losses all season, but can they do it in the playoffs?

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Filipe Dimas
1 month ago
Tuesday’s game one loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning marks the 11th time this season that the Toronto Maple Leafs have lost a game by 3+ goals. Toronto’s record in those previous ten contests? A shockingly impressive 9-1, with the only loss coming against the record-breaking Bruins during a hard fought 4-3 loss in January.
Needless to say, all season long the Maple Leafs have shown that they are capable of overcoming adversity and bouncing back when things seem to be at their worst. Whether it’s shaking off blowout losses, injuries to star players, or salary cap complications that force the team to play with a shortened roster, Toronto has simply found ways to win – which couldn’t always be said about previous iterations of this team.
Now they need to prove that it can be done when things matter most, during a playoff series against a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has gone to three straight cup finals. 
One thing that has been repeated ad nauseam about this Maple Leafs core is their frustrating tendency to play down to opponents, however the opposite seems to be true as well. For well over a year now, Toronto has often looked their best when needing to overcome adversity. This is a roster that has a winning record when Auston Matthews is out with an injury, that has won multiple games this year with only 17 skaters (or no real backup goalie) and as mentioned previously, finds themselves with a 9-1 record in games following a blowout loss.
The tragedy of such regular season success is that none of these achievements will matter if Toronto can’t do it again in the playoffs.
During his tenure, it’s been suggested that William Nylander responds best to tough love, and that he may have even requested that treatment from Keefe himself, knowing he excels when being challenged. Looking at the numbers, it seems like the goal-scoring Swede may not be alone in that regard and that the Toronto Maple Leafs as a team play at their best when there’s something extra they’re trying to prove.
As far as pro-sports go, there are few things worth proving more than that everyone was wrong to label you as choke artists who collapse under pressure, another cog in an ever-failing machine that hasn’t made it to the second round of the playoffs in nearly two decades. After winning game one 5-0 last year, only to lose the series in seven, this team should know better than anyone that a single dominant performance does not define a series, and this one is far from over.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs lose this series, the fallout will be catastrophic, and rightfully so. Yet, even when considering the failings of years past, the team has shown all season long that this year may be different, and that they won’t let a single bad loss define them. Call it Charlie Brown kicking the football syndrome, but if adversity is really what makes this team thrive, then game one could be the wakeup call they needed to activate fight or flight mode and flip the switch after a winning streak to end the season left them feeling complacent. 
While it would be easy to throw in the towel and declare this as another lost year, this roster has repeatedly shown that they often play their best when there’s something to overcome – which has to earn them at least one more showing of blind faith to prove that game one was exactly what the name suggests, just a single game.

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