Who’s the most to blame for another sobering postseason exit?
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga24 days ago
Another year, another disappointing postseason exit for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Unfortunately, this team just can’t get out of their own way.
For an offensive powerhouse, the well always seems to run dry at the most inopportune time. In fact, looking back at the past five postseasons, they’ve mustered a grand total of five goals in games they were eliminated in.
2023 – (3-2 OTL FLA)
2022 – (2-1 L TBL)
2021 – (3-1 L MTL)
2020 – (3-0 L CBJ)
2019 – (5-1 L BOS)
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that it’s been five different opponents that have done the honours. Any way you slice it, there’s been an alarming trend materializing for a few seasons now hiding in plain sight.
So, who’s at fault?
At this point, I think there’s a fair share of blame to go around, but for me, a lot of the onus should fall on the players.
For starters, the Core Four, who take up a significant portion of the salary cap, combined for three goals – two from William Nylander and one from Mitch Marner – in five outings against Florida. That’s right, Auston Matthews and John Tavares, who make nearly $23-million combined, did not score a single goal in the series. Sergei Bobrovsky may have stood on his head, but still, that’s unacceptable stuff.
Keeping in line with that theme, once again, Toronto’s power play went south when it was needed the most going 2-for-11 in Round 2. It’s amazing how they can look like world beaters in the regular season, and then the playoffs hit, and it’s a whole different story. It just shows you how truly tough it is to win this time of year. Again, Florida’s penalty kill deserves some credit here, too.
If there’s one reality to grab from yet another crippling postseason exit, it’s that there’s almost always a scapegoat. And that’s mostly because unfortunately, you can’t fire an entire roster. Whatever happens over the next days, weeks or months, bottom line, this team just wasn’t good enough when it mattered most.
First series victory in 19 years or not, I’ll look back at this season as a colossal failure.
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