I apologize for the delayed blog post to the Maple Leafs exit in 2017/2018 playoffs, but I decided quickly after the final buzzer had sounded to end game seven that I would take a couple of days to allow what had transpired to sink in. After taking a couple of days to clear my emotions which were fuzzing my better judgement, here is our postmortem on the series that was.
Yes, history will show that the Maple Leafs lost the series in game seven yet again to the Boston Bruins after a breakdown in the third period cost them the series win. But after time to think about it, the series was lost on missed opportunities all throughout the seven games and not just in one game. Where would the Maple Leafs be had they played in games one and two how they played in games five & six? Where would the Maple Leafs be had they taken advantage of a Bruins’ team that was without their top centre in Patrice Bergeron in game four?
The play of the entire team left much to be desired throughout the series, the best version of the Maple Leafs didn’t really take to the ice until it was almost too late, which isn’t good enough. Some credit to the Bruins for shutting down two of the Maple Leafs top stars in Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Matthews and Nylander really struggled to come up with an answer to overcome the Bruins defense and even when given the opportunities to score, Tukka Rask was up for the challenge.
But after game seven Leafs Nation was searching for reasons why the Maple Leafs lost (I’d say some of us were looking for blood) found their reasons in Jake Gardiner. Even though Jake Gardiner had one of his worst games in his entire tenure with the Maple Leafs, he alone didn’t cost the Maple Leafs the series, as blame can be shared evenly between management, coaches and the players who at times did look ready or prepared to sacrifice what was needed to win.
It was the defensive side of the puck that was the difference between winning and losing, I am not just saying the 6 players that defense either. The defensive side of the puck isn’t a two-player responsibility, but of the entire five player unit on the ice. This was apparent in the regular as Andersen had to face an average of 30 or more even each of his starts, this grew to be the Maple Leafs Achilles heel in the playoffs which cost them the series.
This is a tough pill to swallow for everyone involved, I would expect management to make the appropriate moves in the summer to fix this glaring issue with the roster. That may mean saying goodbye to some players to bring in new ones because the Maple Leafs to achieve their goal of winning the Stanley Cup can’t continue like it has with the patch work on defense. Outside of Morgan Reilly, Travis Dermott, Ron Hainsey and yes Jake Gardiner will need to be upgraded. I have questioned Gardiner in the past but with a more reliable defense partner Gardiner, I don’t see why he can’t be the same player that played so well going into this year’s playoffs.
Leafs Nation this will be yet another long spring with so many questions heading into the post season. But the reasons why we are here don’t fall on one player alone, this team won as a team and sadly in game seven lost as a team. No matter how easy it is to put the loss on Gardiner and Gardiner alone.