May 20, 2022

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The Maple Leafs have come this tough method earlier than, from the on-ice handshake line to their silent dressing room and media stand, with the burden of dropping Sport 7 and a first-round exit sending them into early summer time.

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“We’re uninterested in feeling like this,” winner Mitch Marner mentioned as Heger survived his sixth straight loss within the first spherical. “It will not be for lengthy, however after we get again we have now to ensure we get again the most effective crew by way of power, quicker, quicker. We’ve to ensure we’re prepared.”

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Toronto went all out on Saturday however misplaced 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This was the ninth time the Leafs had did not win an elimination sport since 2018.
If the Hockey Corridor of Fame had a “Imagine It or Not” exhibit, the Leafs’ crew photographs from that yr would showcase the most effective crew ever to win a first-round collection.

They had been turned down once more as your complete “nation” across the Scotiabank Enviornment was in an agonizing 60 minutes from celebration mode, and so they briefly drew within the second interval, hoping to shake off the 18-year playoff angst since they final had been shifting ahead.

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However the 115-point membership, made up of eventual winner Hart and Ted Lindsay, a stellar proper winger with a goal-ridden, assured dynamic fashion, confronted a two-time Stanley Cup champion who was unwilling to cede his throne.

“It hurts a bit bit greater than final yr[losing 3-1 to underdog Montreal],” head coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned. “It was a extremely good crew that performed actually laborious. And the truth that we have now come so near this crew, what they stand for and what they’ve achieved.

“We had the chance to complete them in Sport 6 (dropping in additional time) however the truth that we had been so shut… it’s tough. I really feel that we’re a lot nearer than it appears.

“However this crew has a recipe, and so they got here up with it.”

Within the seventh sport, this meant scoring first with a purpose to take the manic crowd out of the sport for some time, regain the lead and convey Andrei Vasilevsky’s goalkeeping sport to a hard-fought victory.

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“Good edge.” Captain John Tavares mentioned Saturday’s end result. “Typically it is simply time, our alternatives in Sport 6, we regarded good. We had seems in third tonight, they blocked pictures and made it tough to get to the web.

“Religion is robust in that room and the way tight it’s to get by. It is simply laborious to come back to phrases with the circumstances proper now. We work all yr spherical to be prepared for these alternatives. Like I mentioned, it is a superb line.

Maintaining Jack Campbell out of the Leafs’ web, the Lightning’s win despatched him to the semi-final convention in opposition to the Florida Panthers and the Leafs into one other unwelcome begin to the summer time.

The core of Auston Matthews, Marner, William Nylander, Tavares and Morgan Reilly will little doubt want time to get better.

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“This can be a crew that in all probability had one of many hardest collection we have performed,” Lightning’s Steven Stamkos mentioned. “They’ve star gamers, they’ve a goalkeeper, they’ve stable defenders, you make the listing and so they have all the pieces. We simply believed in ourselves.”

Tampa had been capable of hit the board seconds after the harm, Nick Paul was in good place to choose up Ross Colton’s shot as Campbell pulled himself out of place.

Tavares thought he had equalized halfway by the interval, however Justin Corridor acquired a 50-50 interference penalty for slicing a Tampa defenseman in pursuit of the Leafs captain.

Riley transformed appropriately, passing Matthews and beating Vasilevskiy after Campbell made a save and Toronto put up some spectacular shorthand. Nylander narrowly missed the Russian once more throughout a partial break in the identical interval, however the Bolts keeper was assured for the rest of the evening.

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Paul, who was born in close by Mississauga, was within the lead once more earlier than the body ended when Jake Mazzin was knocked down on the blue line and he was capable of rush in and beat Campbell. Leaves No. 1st within the majority was 0 out of three on Saturday and it wasn’t the distinction {that a} collection may have been.

After dropping to Montreal final Could, many critics believed that normal supervisor Kyle Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe can be crushed if the Leafs did not make it out of the primary spherical for the sixth straight time, and that one of many hitters was “the principle 4” ought to go.

That absolute possibility pale because the Leafs grew to become a crowd favourite all through the season, set a number of crew and particular person information, and crammed the SBA when COVID-19 guidelines had been relaxed, to not point out these 4 profitable residence playoffs.

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Most of Dubas’ roster miscalculations have been corrected, although the Leafs nonetheless lack the depth of the blue line.

Campbell could grow to be a free agent, and if one of many essential 4 doesn’t transfer, most certainly, winger Ilya Mikheev’s time is up, as cash have to be discovered for the goalkeeper.

Selections should even be made on UFA forwards Jason Spezza, who turns 39 this summer time, and defenders Ilya Lyubushkin and Mark Giordano. Spezza, Giordano and Wayne Simmonds had been 1,000-game veterans seeking to finish their cup drought.

In the meantime, Lightning coach John Copper is now on the lookout for a special story. Whereas it was no simple job to win even one Cup within the period of the wage cap, they’re now 12 behind three consecutive wins and have a document of 17-0 in post-loss video games in that point.

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“It was exhilarating,” Cooper mentioned forward of Sport 7. 4 video games away from Columbus) and we by no means regarded again.

“I’ve seen these guys in each doable adversity and so they have discovered a technique to survive. Was it taxed? Sure, not precisely bodily, however in all probability mentally. Stand up each single day and struggle issues when you may say, “You already know what? We did it and it is okay if we do not (repeat).”

However these guys will not settle for it. It was fairly spectacular. The final three years have been explosive and, as I informed them, our story is just not over but.”

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Cooper desires them to be the primary dominant crew of the 2020s, like Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles had been within the 2010s.

It is one thing the Leafs can solely dream of proper now.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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