Six months ago all this would have been considered a pipe dream, the thought of a roster made up of a majority of rookies making the playoffs wasn’t even thought of as possible. Some sports experts didn’t have Marner even making the roster, and some knew Matthews would be good none could have predicted how brilliant his first season would be. But yet here we are on the eve of the Maple Leafs first playoff series in 4 years, and longer if you factor in the last time they made the playoffs in a full 82 game season which was all the way in 2004.
There is definitely a feeling of the winds changing around this franchise, the dawning of a new age is upon us and the faces pushing this movement are 19 and 20 year old have eclipsed expectations this season with the names of Matthews, Nylander, Marner, Hyman now etched in the Maple Leafs record books.
One can’t help but get caught up in this energy and renewed sense of hope. The next step in this new age for the Maple Leafs is their upcoming first round matchup with the Washington Capitals, a series where no one gives the Maple Leafs a chance but even that isn’t the story line. The real story is the coming out party of the record breaking rookies that the Maple Leafs are set to unleash in this year’s playoffs. Success be damned, let the kids play and let’s see how they do in their first games of NHL playoff hockey. The growth and lessons learned no matter how far they take this opening round are important, with sprinkle of surprises and moments of wow throughout the series.
The Washington Capitals are a team with expectations that they will finally break their playoff wall and finally win a Stanley Cup with their core led by Alexander Ovechkin. The Capitals finished the regular season winning the President’s trophy and after beefing up their defense by trading for Kevin Shattenkirk in addition to their deep roster of forwards that can streak at any time, the Maple Leafs find themselves in tough.
Game one goes tomorrow night, the one thing that will be interesting to watch is how both teams come out. The Washington Capitals will be in tough as they try to shake off previous playoff failures and the Maple Leafs one would expect to see a young roster dive right into playoff hockey with no pressure or heightened expectations. It will be exciting series nonetheless, and I have the Capitals winning in 6.