May 20, 2022

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The Maple Leafs imagine they’ve lived by way of the non-fiction journey novel this yr, and that the seventh sport can be its most fun chapter, not the final phrase.

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Your entire 2021-2022 season has been devoted to working by way of conflicts and crises of all types, beginning with choosing up the items after an embarrassing playoff loss to Montreal that created even heavier baggage in October as a part of 5 first-round losses. .

They then bumped into difficulties early and noticed COVID-19 trigger two main disruptions: a crew outbreak affecting most gamers and employees in western Canada simply earlier than Christmas, and a mid-season hiatus within the NHL that stifled their momentum.

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Mitch Marner and Jack Campbell, two of their greatest names, have been sidelined for weeks with accidents and slumps, normal supervisor Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe have come again every now and then, and self-inflicted accidents have damaged the crew. pulled out of the battle for first place and compelled the sequence in opposition to the champion of the Lightning Cup.

Nevertheless, they completed the yr because the second-best crew within the Atlantic Division, with franchise data for wins, factors, and a number of award-winning personalities.

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After conceding two objectives within the final two video games of the sequence, they got here again to win one and lose the opposite in extra time. So, they are going to take sport 7 to Scotiabank, thanks very a lot.

“There may be a whole lot of confidence in our crew,” Keefe insisted on Friday. “The issues we have been doing all season to compete in such a troublesome division, to have residence ice in a sequence like this, the response and assist we have had from our followers, mixed with the tenacity and perseverance we have proven over the past two video games, I simply really feel like this crew has a whole lot of wrestle.

“All of the work we’ve performed has ready us. Due to this, Recreation 7 is being performed in Toronto.”

Bay Road provides Keefe two massive benefits: one final likelihood to develop a throw-in technique involving facilities Auston Matthews and John Tavares, the matches he needs from protection, and crowd noise that might have an effect on one or two penalties on the Lightning.

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In fact, the house ice did nothing for them of their final sport seven after they resembled zombies in a 3-1 loss to make up for the frustration of the Habs, the seventh of eight occasions they’ve failed a playoff elimination take a look at since 2018. .

These ghosts might descend from the SBA rafters once more, however Keefe and his gamers will argue that the final two weeks are proof of a brand new, improved Leafs tradition.

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“I actually have a look at these two conditions as utterly totally different,” Keefe mentioned. “Going into the final Recreation 7 and (dropping Recreation 5) within the Columbus Sequence, you had been a little bit depressed since you didn’t make it. We misplaced in extra time final night time, identical to Recreation 6 in Montreal. Nevertheless it’s nearly how we performed, the caliber of our opponent, how a lot stress they placed on us and the way we handled it.

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“Our crew this season is totally totally different. Our greatest gamers come by way of at vital moments (Matthews, Marner and Campbell, and Tavares in Recreation 6) and play properly within the group. Going head-to-head with back-to-back champions… it doesn’t make issues simple, however we don’t really feel uncomfortable going into it.”

After Thursday’s loss, when his purpose was pivotal within the second interval play and he led the Leafs in hitters, pictures, hits and faceoff wins, Matthews mentioned the crew should “put all of it on the road and go.” Recreation plan 7.

Roughly, Keefe mentioned, “That is the proper strategy to describe it. This requires an all-in, there may be nothing to avoid wasting on. We imagine in our crew, they imagine in theirs (coach John Cooper believes that his crew is sad with their two-time championship). There is not a lot that separates us on this sequence, so it is solely becoming that we end Recreation 7.

“We’re in the proper area in entrance of our followers.”

The Leafs, who had been obtainable on Friday, tried to sound bullish after Recreation 6.

“That is the playoffs, there can be ups and downs alongside the way in which,” defenseman Mark Giordano mentioned. “After we get on the sphere and in our sport, we’re adequate to beat anybody. It is exhausting proper after a sport like (Thursday). However you get up, it is a new day, and tomorrow we’ll be again residence. I am wanting ahead to taking part in this sport.”

lhornby@postmedia.com

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