The Toronto Maple Leafs magical post season playoff run is now over. They were stopped by the team that bested the 2023 Presidents’ Trophy winning Boston Bruins in seven games: the 2022 Presidents’ Trophy winning Florida Panthers.
It was a close Game 5 the whole way, with both teams trading chances with each other. A couple of calls went the way of the Panthers and swayed the momentum. At the end of the day, the Maple Leafs couldn’t get it done while the Panthers did. The Panthers move onto Round 3 to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
Called Back Game-Tying Goal
One of the biggest shifts of momentum happened when Morgan Rielly scored the game-tying goal, or so he thought. Rielly took the puck to the net and the puck (seemingly) trickled in past the goal line. The officials reviewed the play and discovered that the puck did not completely cross the goal line, so the goal was called back.
Looking at the replays while watching the game, you could tell that it didn’t completely cross the line. The referees made the right call for once. At that point in the game the Maple Leafs were pressuring the Panthers a lot. They were in the offensive zone a lot and out shot the Panthers by game’s end.
Maple Leafs’ Core Led The Way
William Nylander and Rielly scored the two Maple Leafs goals in Game 5. Rielly would have had two goals if his second wasn’t called back. The stars of the Maple Leafs were rising to the challenge, and for the most part played on par with the Panthers for the whole game.
Related: Maple Leafs Game 4 Recap: Stars Show Up, Woll Is a Wall & More
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John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Rielly and Nylander accounted for 30 of the team’s 52 shots. Of those five players Rielly had the least shots (four) and Matthews had the most (eight). They didn’t lose this game because of a lack of effort when they had 57 percent of their team’s shots.
Full Throttle Overtime
The Panthers’ Game 5-winning goal came at 15:32 of the extra frame. Nick Cousins ripped a shot past Joseph Woll off of a pass from Radko Gudas. Up until that point the overtime period was even more back and forth than the first three frames were. Both teams were trading chances left, right and center. The shot totals didn’t really reflect that, with only 15 shots being recorded between the Panthers and Maple Leafs.
Woll did his part to keep the Maple Leafs in the game. Although they lost, Woll still stopped 40 of 43 shots. That’s good for a .930 save percentage (SV%) for the game. He only started three games this post season, but he definitely made a case for himself to be the backup next year to Ilya Samsonov. Over his four games played during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs he had a 2.43 goals-against average (GAA) and a .915 SV%. Two of his three starts were quality starts (QS), where he had a save percentage higher than league average.
Wall of Bobrovsky
A common theme in many of these games against the Panthers is that the Maple Leafs could not solve Sergei Bobrovsky. They only scored twice on 52 shots. Throughout all of Round 2 Bobrovsky faced 174 shots and only 10 got past him. That’s good for a .942 SV% in the series. He was dialed in and came through for his team when the tensions rose.
Bobrovsky is having a resurgence this year. It started in the regular season where he was slowly returning to form. This series against the Maple Leafs felt like playing against vintage Bobrovsky. For the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs he has a 2.82 GAA, .918 SV%, and 7 QS.
Too Little, Too Late
Despite the effort from up and down the lineup, the Maple Leafs just didn’t do enough to win the series in the first three games. If one of those had swung their way the outcome of this series could have been entirely different. Going down 3-0 in a playoff series is all but confirming that your team is done. When only four teams have come back to win when down 3-0 out of 204 (now 205) instances it takes everyone to give everything they have to beat the other team (who are also giving everything they have).
This offseason presents itself with many questions and speculations on who will stay and who will go. Now that this group has gone through a series win and understand first hand what it takes to win at this level, they can come back next year more motivated to get deeper into the playoffs. Ultimately, every team’s goal is to win the Stanley Cup and on Game 5 is when those dreams for the Maple Leafs died.