The Maple Leafs have been a tale of two teams. After game three, one would have though that the Maple Leafs would have come out flying after regaining some momentum going into game four. That simply wasn’t the case, Frederik Andersen uncharacteristically let in a bad goal 28 seconds into the game and the Maple Leafs found themselves chasing the game yet again and losing 3-1.
In Game 4, The Maple Leafs couldn’t convert on their power plays, and the line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman especially failed to click. What infuriated many in Leafs Nation wasn’t necessarily the loss. But it was the process in the way they lost that had many scratching their heads. The lack of competitiveness, the lack of fight to win battles in the corners and along the boards, lack of finish when opportunities presented themselves is what so many found so infuriating. There was no bigger opportunity in game four than a Bruins’ team without Patrice Bergeron in the lineup for the game. The Maple Leafs failed to rise to the occasion to tie the series at two games a piece.
Heading into a hostile Boston Gardens for game 5 and down 3-1 in the series with newly formed line combinations, the Maple Leafs came to play with a little more fire than we saw the game before. Early on in last night’s game the Maple Leafs controlled the pace, having Nazem Kadri back in the lineup also helped ramp up the physicality for the Maple Leafs. It was this effort that saw them take a 4-2 lead into the third period.
A mix of bad calls and inability of some self control saw the Maple Leafs almost hand the game back to the Bruins as the Maple Leafs were penalized seven times. Luckily for the Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen was on his game and helped the Maple Leafs close out a 4-3 win to send things back to Toronto for game six.
There was a lot of anger between games four and five as there should have been. I know I was upset by the play of Maple Leafs, as I have always argued talent wise the Maple Leafs are on par with the Bruins and the results in the games the Maple Leafs lost weren’t indicative of the way the Maple Leafs could play. It is okay Leafs Nation to complain, it is okay to be angry because without that anger we wouldn’t be here to begin with. If enough people weren’t angry after the way things were going under Brian Burke then maybe Shanahan wouldn’t have been hired to fix the Maple Leafs and the status quo would have continued.
Because of the anger, The Maple Leafs’ now have one of the best front offices, coaching staffs and rosters in the NHL. I am sure if you ask each player what their thoughts were or what they could have done differently in the games that they lost, they would all start by saying effort. Effort not talent is what has caused the Maple Leafs to be down 3-2 in the series. Effort to push back against the Bruins, effort in going into the corners or along the boards to retrieve the puck knowing you are going to take a hit to continue the fore-check, effort in skating back to play defense or going to block a shot has been the difference. Had the games been close like they were last year and the Maple Leafs were still down 3-2, there wouldn’t have been as much anger. But what has been the Maple Leafs Achilles heel all series has been the lack of consistent effort game in and game out. Hopefully heading home tomorrow night, the Maple Leafs will give us effort, because when they do there aren’t too many teams that are better in talent than the Maple Leafs.
When you see some complain about the Maple Leafs on social media including on this blog, it isn’t that they have jumped off the bandwagon. It is that they have their feet firmly planted on it, and just want the best effort as we all know the talent is there to take things to the next level in achieving the Stanley Cup. Isn’t that what we all want?