The glass is finally half full in Toronto. At least it should be.
Of course, when you have a three goal lead in the third period of a game, you need to win that game. This rule applies in the preseason, the first game of the year, but is an absolute must in the seventh game of a playoff series.
On Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost their first round series with the Boston Bruins in the most heartbreaking of ways. They held a 4-1 lead with roughly 10 minutes to play and proceeded to allow the Bruins to tie the game with 50 seconds left in regulation.
From there, the Bruins carried play in overtime, eventually earning the victory and series win on Patrice Bergeron’s second goal of the game.
As tough as it is to lose a game in that way, the Maple Leafs surprised everyone and acquitted themselves very well in this series. Save for their game one clunker, they played a vastly more experienced Bruins club tightly throughout the seven games and pushed the series to the ultimate limit.
The effort displayed in the series was not out of character for this Leafs club. From the very beginning of the season, they were counted out. More analysts and prognosticators than not had them finishing in the bottom third of the conference and missing the playoffs entirely.
Adam Proteau of the Hockey News had them finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, which was one of the more favorable predictions.
Defiantly, the Maple Leafs emerged from the lockout a changed club. They played more physically, more defensively sound, and played for each other. They received improved goaltending and their young players began to thrive.
Potentially lost in the disappointment of a series comeback coming up just short are the big strides that the club made throughout this shortened season.
It appears that the Leafs have found a coach in Randy Carlyle, capable of providing a stable system and getting the most out of his players.
Young players like Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and even James Reimer have come into their own at various points throughout the season and playoffs.
Most importantly, as the youngest team in the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs gained valuable experience. They encountered a number of new circumstances and found a way to look adversity in the face and still move forward. They dealt with several injuries throughout this series and every player who stepped into the lineup made a positive contribution and helped to get to a game seven.
They are far from perfect, but what first time playoff teams are? The Blue and White are still a few pieces from being a true contender, but the building blocks are clearly there.
No, losing a three goal lead at the end of a seventh game is not acceptable. Yes, that is a game that experienced, veteran teams likely follow through on and win. But hopefully for Leafs Nation, and the Leafs themselves for that matter, perspective can settle in and everyone can realize that this team defied expectations all season long and accomplished more than even the most optimistic of fans could have predicted.
The future is bright in Leaf Land for the first time in a very long time. Next year is another opportunity to grow and become the team that this fan base has been so long in waiting for.
They’re getting close, but they’re not quite there yet.
A graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University, Kevin is the Senior Editor of Maple Leafs Central and has previously worked as a Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers. Kevin can be contacted at k.am.pentz (at) gmail (dot) com.