Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Learning from the Canadiens’ Playoff Success

Almost every day I find something to appreciate about the THW readers who read my posts. Sure, sometimes people disagree, but mostly it’s done in a barbershop(ish) sort of way – like the old guys (and some women) engaged in conversation about the things they care about.

For me, it’s a learning experience. Someone in a comment offers an insight I hadn’t thought about or a perfect example to explain something. Furthermore, often my readers’ knowledge supersedes my own, and I appreciate learning more about the team I cover. There’s not even a “but” here. I listen, learn, and consider.

Related: 7 Cool Things About Carey Price

To be transparent, I have a bit of a digital journal where I take time to copy and paste some of your thoughts and, every once in a while, I’ll pop one into a post or leverage that thought into the creation of a post. In short, thank you.

Insights from a THW Reader

This edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors is one such time. I want to bounce off a reader’s comment into an entire post and tip my hat to his comment. Specifically, a few days ago, David L. D. wrote:

“Too much ink is being wasted on blaming Mitch and Austin, rather than acknowledging the prowess of the Danault line in covering them. The Habs were more balanced, and thoroughly prepared for the Leafs [and everybody else up to this point]. There is no shame in losing to a team that has made it to the semi-final (now the Stanley Cup Finals). It’s just painful.”

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nicely said David L. D., who added: “To my mind, this year was yet another painful experience, but the team was significantly better than it had been. Let’s see if there are six more Spezza clones to be found!”

A Revisionist Look at the First-Round Loss

Given last night’s Montreal Canadiens win over the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime to move to the Stanley Cup finals, perhaps it’s time to revise our look at the round-one series. Could it be that there was more going on than just our propensity to blame Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner as the main reason the team lost in seven games to the Canadiens?

Related: Canadiens’ Biggest Draft Busts of the Last Decade

True, the twosome didn’t score two goals between them; and, that problem needs to be figured out. Our best players need to be the best players. Still, the way things turned out sort of vindicates the Maple Leafs two young (or was it too young) forwards a bit. And, playing off the “too young” forwards, I take heart in David L. D.’s comment that the team this season was “significantly better” than it had been. It’s still growing and we’re impatient (for understandable reasons).

Last night’s win keeps re-telling the same bedtime story for the Canadiens’ entire playoffs. The Golden Knights struggled to find offense against the Canadiens’ suffocating defense. When they did, goalie Carey Price stopped the puck. The Canadiens’ players dominated the neutral zone, giving the Golden Knights’ forwards little space. There were tons of outside shots, but little success for the Golden Knights.

Don’t Feel Bad Vegas, You’re Not Alone

Sound familiar Winnipeg Jets and Maple Leafs? After three playoff series, the list of elite forwards the Canadiens mostly shut down include Matthews, Marner, Nik Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele (for the game he was in before his suspension), Mark Stone, and Max Pacioretty. That’s a list of big-time NHL goal scorers.

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

At first, I thought about calling it a Cinderella story. However, revising that too, I’d call it more the story of the six mice who were turned into the Cinderella’s carriage horses. The Canadiens suddenly seem bigger than they looked when the playoffs started. [As an aside, when I saw Cole Caufield score last night, I couldn’t help but think of Nick Robertson.]

Looking Back, How Should Maple Leafs’ Fans Feel?

What’s so interesting is that the Maple Leafs have so far given the Canadiens their toughest battle of the playoffs. There’s no doubt the Maple Leafs would have beaten the Canadiens with a single fortunate bounce or if either Matthews or Marner (or anyone for that matter) could have found a way to score a timely goal. There were so many chances, but the team didn’t cash in.

Perhaps there’s some consolation that the Maple Leafs are in good company with the Jets and the Golden Knights. The clock struck midnight for three pretty good NHL teams. No one, and I think I really mean no one, thought the Canadiens would get this far. But they have.

Related: Maple Leafs and the Media: Trying to Control the Narrative

My point is that perhaps the Maple Leafs’ loss can’t all be blamed on Matthews and Marner. Maybe they weren’t that bad after all; instead, maybe the Canadiens were really that good. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems to fix; it just might mean they weren’t the problems we thought they were.

Thanks to David L. D. for that insight.

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