Rapper Drake’s song “Started from the bottom now we’re here” is the perfect anthem for these young Maple Leafs as they too are here! The playoff series against the Washington Capitals to which no one predicted the Maple Leafs could win one game much less two has turned into a competitive, fast paced series in which the Maple Leafs have given the Washington Capitals all they can handle and more. More so for the Maple Leafs, this is their “Now we’re here” statement to the entire hockey world. With game 6 tomorrow night, and the opportunity to tie the series with a big win at the Air Canada Centre to push a winner takes all game 7 on Tuesday is nothing short of incredible!
A team who finished 23 points less than their opponents the Washington Capitals has gone shift for shift and game for game without really looking overmatched. 4 of the 5 games played have gone to overtime, and this series could easily be 3-2 for the Maple Leafs if for a couple of fortuitous bounces going the other direction. These games have been entertaining and exciting to watch, so much for the 18-wheeler speeding off the cliff from of a couple of seasons ago, this Maple Leafs team is young, fast and come to play every night leaving everything on the ice and not giving the Washington Capitals an inch in any of the 3 zones on the ice.
If this series has shown the hockey world, Maple Leafs management, media and fans anything is that this team isn’t too far off from really contending with the elite in the NHL and needs to be taken seriously. Auston Matthews and the rest of the Maple Leafs rookies have seized the moment and have played some of their best hockey with the pressure of being in the playoffs for the first time and with the rest of the hockey world watching. For a roster of young players all playing their first playoff games, there hasn’t been fear or trepidation, however what we have witnessed is a sense of calm and almost cockiness which comes from having one of the most successful and competent coaches in the NHL leading the way.
In the end, no matter how this playoff series turns out, there will be a sense of mission accomplished at least for this season. The Maple Leafs are once again relevant in the NHL, hope and faith are no longer a gimmick in Toronto to keep fans coming back, but has quickly becoming something that is tangible in the standings and something you can truly put your support behind as a loyal fan.
Hope is now represented by the faces of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Frederik Andersen, Morgan Reilly, Kasperi Kapanen and the list goes on and on within an organization that had no prospects in the system and little talent only a few years ago, now is experiencing an embarrassment of riches of talented players already on the Maple Leafs and with the Toronto Marlies and in their minor league system hungry and ready to take the next step.
The Maple Leafs who were once trapped spinning their wheels at the bottom of the standings and a laughing stock in the NHL, now has everyone taking notice that the Maple Leafs started from the bottom, Now they’re here!