May 20, 2022

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John Cooper has a message – let’s name it a warning – for individuals who assume the Toronto Maple Leafs ought to break up simply because they misplaced once more in Sport 7 of the primary spherical of the playoffs.

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You may remorse it.

“I am not in that room. I coach the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Cooper mentioned after a 2-1 win over Toronto on Saturday. “However I do know a few of their gamers. I used to be behind the bench with Morgan Reilly. I used to be behind the bench with Mitch Marner. I used to be behind the bench with Auston Matthews.

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“And if these guys have been launched, I’d be first in line to have them on my staff.”

It wasn’t Cooper making an attempt to advise Leafs followers questioning if their staff might ever recover from the hump. Moderately, it was an indication of respect for a staff that attempted their finest however nonetheless misplaced a best-of-seven collection that went the gap.

“It was probably the most even collection you are about to see,” Cooper mentioned. “It was not a 4-0 rating. It was that we have been down 3-2 within the collection and we discovered a means, however it was as shut because it will get. I personally answered the identical questions that they’re going to reply three years in the past – perhaps otherwise, I feel, as a result of we reached the ultimate a number of years earlier – however they gave us all the things we will deal with.


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Cooper was referring to the 2019 season, when Tampa Bay completed with one of the best total report within the NHL earlier than shedding to the Columbus Blue Jackets within the first spherical of the playoffs. They gained the Stanley Cup the next yr. And he gained once more final yr.

Might this have occurred to the Leafs?

“Indubitably, it is a nice hockey staff,” mentioned Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. “They’ve all of the items. It is not straightforward. It is not straightforward at the moment of yr. We have talked about it within the band earlier than. We have had some setbacks prior to now and we’re simply shifting on and also you simply must recover from the hump. That is it.” typically it will get psychic, however it’s actually not as a result of they do not deserve it, they’re.

“It is a staff that has been one of many hardest collection we have performed by way of they’ve star gamers, they’ve a goaltender, stable defenders, you make the listing and so they have all the things.” . We simply believed in ourselves. We knew it could be a protracted collection. We have been speaking about this for the reason that starting… Sport 7 can go both means.”


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For Toronto, which has didn’t make it via the primary spherical for six years in a row, issues go unsuitable, particularly within the seventh or elimination video games.

In 2018, they misplaced 7-4 in Sport 7 to the Boston Bruins. A yr later, they misplaced 5-1 to the Bruins in Sport 7. In 2020, they misplaced 3-0 to Columbus in Sport 5 of the highest 5. And final yr they misplaced 3-1 to Montreal in Sport 7 after profitable the collection 3-1.

This yr, it seemed like Toronto had the staff to lastly make it. However the Leafs, who have been main 3-2 within the collection, could not shut the scoring in opposition to the two-time defending champions, who beat Toronto 4-3 in extra time in Sport 6 after which gained Sport 7 in one other tight win.

“The underside line is that eight groups have over 100 factors within the Japanese Convention,” Cooper mentioned. “Three of them went to Sport 7 and one was the Presidents Trophy (winner) who went into extra time and needed to come again to win his collection. And that is the way it was. So there ought to have been 4 groups with over 100 factors that needed to be eradicated within the first spherical and by chance for us we weren’t certainly one of them, however it took all the things to knock these guys out.”


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As for what’s subsequent for the Leafs, at the least the Lightning participant mentioned he would not be stunned in the event that they adopted Tampa Bay to success.

Unimaginable staff. Cussed combat collection. Shut video games,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman mentioned. “They’ve unimaginable gamers. They fought exhausting. At present was a tense recreation, all the things might have turned out in a different way. They’re an incredible group. Their finest gamers are nonetheless very younger – properly, not very younger, however nonetheless younger on this league – and they’ll have one other probability.

“Clearly we’re very pleased to come back out on high, however they’re an incredible staff. They’re going to go a good distance sooner or later.”



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