May 21, 2022

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It wasn’t about 18 years of uselessness. It wasn’t 55 years with out the Stanley Cup. It wasn’t about what would possibly or may not have occurred prior to now.

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It wasn’t concerning the Maple Leafs’ complete historical past of playoff losses prior to now – and a few will get there – or the frustration of dropping a 4-1 lead in Boston, or a 3-1 collection win in opposition to a so-so Montreal crew. . Or all of the losses within the seventh recreation of the previous.

It was one night time, one recreation, one punch within the intestine and a number of disappointments.

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This collection with the Tampa Bay Lightning was completely different and must be seen that manner. It was a recreation between two nice hockey groups, one playoff collection, one purpose distinction on the finish, and one crew’s season was about to finish in a horrible disappointment.

Somebody needed to lose.

As soon as once more, that somebody was the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And it feels terrible and empty, and it is terribly irritating, and it is much more disappointing, as a result of the Tampa Bay Lightning is so shut – or the Leafs are so near the Lightning champion – and so they have an incredible, record-breaking season misplaced in recreation 7 after dropping the sport. 6 in additional time and it is simple to really feel like they left one thing on the desk.

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However this crew is completely different. And this opponent was completely different.

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This crew was emotional. This crew was sensible more often than not. That is why they’d probably the most factors in Leafs historical past. That is why they’ve gained probably the most video games ever.

If you wish to be upset as we speak, you’ve each proper to be. Extra could be anticipated. It is okay to need the playoffs.

The Leafs themselves definitely suppose so. They do not need to hear concerning the previous. They did not rent John Ferguson Jr. or Brian Burke to run this crew. They did not change to Owen Nolan, Brian Letch or Phil Houseley. It occurred when these Leafs had been nonetheless youngsters.

However gamers like Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Morgan Reilly, who collectively scored the one purpose in Toronto that wasn’t referred to as off by officers, are feeling awful as we speak. This defeat wasn’t essentially on their aspect or on any particular person participant on the Leafs roster, however that does not imply it may possibly’t damage. Very painful.

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Matthews has scored probably the most objectives within the NHL this season and probably the most objectives within the NHL since he entered the league, and the save of the night by Andrey Vasilevsky, a world-class goaltender, got here on Matthews. The purpose would have given the Leafs a 2-1 lead, one thing they by no means had on Saturday night time on the Scotiabank Enviornment.

That is what Vasilevsky has been doing all his profession in massive video games and large moments. He makes stops that different objectives cannot. He settled on Matthews.

Shortly thereafter, pickup truck Nick Paul, a Mississauga child, did what the Leafs hadn’t executed that night time and gave Tampa a 2-1 lead. The purpose appeared nearly like a response to a shot by Matthews that did not rating – the form of momentum Dominik Hasek used for his teammates – the kick got here shortly after William Nylander made a half break, tried a backhand that went via. community, not into it.

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Two possibilities for Leaves, no objectives. One Tampa probability, one purpose. It is a recreation. It is a collection.

The Leafs season has come to an finish. Now there will probably be hand wringing and accusations, as a result of that is what occurs on the finish of each season. So who’s responsible for the Leafs dropping 2-1 after they had the best scoring participant in hockey, one of the best powerplay within the league, and some of the artistic passers within the recreation? Who’s responsible for all this?

You would begin with Vasilevsky after which transfer on to Lightning coach John Cooper, one of the best goaltender within the enterprise and one of the best coach within the enterprise.

Vasilevsky did not should cease the puck that always. The Tampa gamers in entrance of him blocked a lot of the photographs, 26 in whole. They took care of their purpose, as champions normally do. They gave no place to the Leaves. They made the whole lot troublesome. That is simply one of many the reason why they’ve gained two Stanley Cups and are shifting in direction of what might be a 3rd.

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The Leafs have been valiant of their makes an attempt to attain, discover open gamers, and too usually suppose an excessive amount of about what to do with the puck. That is what has haunted this crew in earlier playoffs.

With all that offense they wanted to supply extra and so they wanted to get one thing from gamers aside from the Huge 4 and Reilly on protection. That is one thing they should enhance.

Do these Leafs care sufficient about one other first-round loss?

All you needed to do was watch Matthews stroll via the handshake queue. His eyes had been nearly moist. His expression was pure unhappiness. All the cash, all of the awards, all of the accolades will not purchase what he most needed on Saturday night time.

This season is over. As soon as once more too quickly. This one is completely different from any of the final 55 years. It was a crew that might succeed. They had been so shut. They had been so actual.

In the long run, they had been once more heartbroken.

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