If you aren’t inherently stupid or weren’t trying just to be a contrarian, you knew that ultimately the Leafs would win the North division pretty easily. The Toronto Maple Leafs get to play a whole regular season; the one thing they are good at, mind you, with the six other loser Canadian teams? No shit, they’re going to win; Toronto runs Canada and don’t you forget it. However, the playoffs are an entirely different beast. The Leafs looked to be better built for the playoffs, and it’s not like they’ve struggled against any of the three teams remaining. But there is always the doubt that hangs in the back of every Leaf fan’s mind, and the first time something goes wrong, that doubt will only increase. Us Leaf fans have gone through enough pain and heartbreak to know that things are never going to be easy when it comes to Toronto and the playoffs.
Looking at the three teams remaining analytically, I am certainly not worried about losing just based on outright skill or team ability. The Leafs are 2nd in expected goals share, the Habs are 10th, the Oilers are 16th, and the Jets are 23rd. Toronto beat the Habs seven times from ten and owned a 53% xGF share in those games. We all know the domination of the Leafs on the Oilers in the final five games of their season, winning four of five. Lastly, the Jets were straight-up crushed by the Leafs this year. Toronto owned 59% of the xGF and 57% of the scoring chances at five on five; it was a complete mismatch. We have Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and a bunch of other great players; the Habs have who, Nick Suzuki?!?! So, yeah, I’m certainly not worried…
Things like last night’s loss to Ottawa are why we can never be too confident. It was just such an ignorantly typical Leaf moment. The defeat means pretty much nothing, and they were, of course, the better team throughout, but they still managed to give away the two points. They could have gone into the playoffs on a winning streak, but alas.
I am not being facetious when I say this; the team from the North I would’ve been most scared of playing in the playoffs would’ve been Ottawa. The Leafs just love to give that terrible team chance after chance to win the game. More than facing the Habs, Oilers or Jets, my biggest worry for this Leafs team is their ability to shoot themselves in the foot.
As dominant as they’ve been, the signs of tripping over their own feet have been there all season. The 5-1 collapse to the aforementioned Sens, allowing two goals late in the third to hand the Habs two points, the recent capitulations against a Canucks team, unfortunately, capitulated with COVID themselves. These were all losses that could have easily been avoided. The Leafs should honestly have won the President’s Trophy by five points. It’s not good to be negative, and in all honesty, there isn’t much legitimate reason for any Leaf fan to be anything but excited for the playoffs. Unless the Leafs shoot 1.8% again like last year, or Connor Hellebuyck goes god mode, or Connor McDavid goes even MORE god mode, it should be smooth sailing to the Final Four. But Leaf players and fans alike need to remember that there will be adversity, and all that matters is how you respond to it.
LET’S GET READY TO RUUUUUMBLLLLLLEEEEE.