So, anything exciting happen last weekend?
Brian: I’m still smiling but also a bit in shock. I had said I think even in last year’s playoffs that I’ll believe the Leafs can win a playoff series when they actually do it, and not one second before. And I think my heart actually stuck to that. I had some hope when they had series leads, and leads in games where they could clinch it. I did Saturday night too. But I was so damn nervous, and when they actually won the first coherent thought I remember having is “holy shit… they actually did it!” like I didn’t think actually would. Made the win all the more exciting! And now we get to do it all again for at least one more round! Wait…
Cathy: Yes, something very exciting. Not exactly that the Leafs won, because sometimes it’s just not your day. But that they played a game that they could win. I know, please don’t quote the stats at me, I know they didn’t dominate in “chances” like some shitstirrer on Twitter tweeted out on Saturday night. I know they weren’t the best at everything at all times. I never expected that.
Tampa was, and will be next year, I reckon, a tough out. One of the toughest. For me the moment when “it was 4-1” and the Leafs came back, when Auston Matthews led that comeback – that was the exciting thing. Someone complained about “too many comebacks” and that’s just absurd. It’s just a way to complain because complaining about the Leafs being bad is your go-to karaoke song. Ideal conditions mean you get the first goal in each game, pile on more, sweep the team out of the playoffs, but Columbus proved the Lightning can only sweep themselves out of the playoffs. So you’re complaining either that Tampa didn’t roll over or that the Leafs aren’t the fucking Habs from 1976. No one is the fucking Habs from 1976. Comebacks are beautiful. Comebacks are the true test of a person. They are intestinal fortitude in its active state.
Seeing the Leafs come back was glorious. And that’s when I was convinced this team could win on the ice, before it had been a lot more pixelated theory. I became certain in the second period, Saturday night. Not wishfully certain, but certain that this team would absolutely not do what that team that played the fucking Habs in 2021 did.
It’s burned in my mind – the sight of Jake Muzzin standing in the pressbox watching a lacklustre, half-baked effort from the stars of the Maple Leafs, and the point he turned away, well, it’s genuinely the only time I’ve ever been angry at a hockey team. Jake Muzzin could sit and watch this Leafs, secure in knowing who they are. No one needed to turn away. And that was more exciting than the win.
Also, ngl, when I said hockey is won by the best players, and I got a lot of, yabbut the depth has to chip in, tho, I was very happy to see Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares do the chipping. Hockey is won by the best players. And that’s what makes it exciting.
Species: Month-end! It’s always a fun time when you do accounting work. You can’t top the excitement and glamour of reviewing a GL for out of balance accruals late on a Friday night! Beyond that I can’t think of what could be more exciting than that…
Oh, right, the whole Leafs thing. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Almost everything about this series played out perfectly, from the “it was 4-1” game to how it didn’t even go to the infamous Game #7. It was glorious and I never doubted. Well, maybe once or twice, for a minute, I mean when you’re a Leafs fan that’s inevitable, but seriously there wasn’t really a point where this team didn’t look built and ready to beat the Lightning. This win was prophesied by Kyle Dubas and the prophecy of defeating the Lightning came to pass. But now what?
Adam: I finished some work on my bedroom, got a nice squashy reading chair for it. Skipped game six to hang out and play all kinds of nerdy games with my wife and her fellow teachers, and almost passed out before the game ended. I was able to turn it on in the third to see Steven Stamkos score, so I noped out real fast and watched the X-Files. Pretty typical weekend.
Aside from the Maple Leafs winning their series vs Tampa that is.
What a feeling it is today, even days later, to have that weight lifted off our shoulders as fans, I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the players; especially Morgan Rielly, who has been around the Leafs for a decade. Longer than any other player, coach, and most staff I imagine.
The Leafs slayed quite a few dragons with this win. Hackneyed jokes now must be tossed by the wayside and we as Maple Leafs fans can finally watch with confidence, and much, much, much less tension and worry about how things are going to go.
Got any plans for this week?
Brian: I plan to try, very hard, to enjoy this next playoff round. Not 100% sure I’ll fully manage it, but we’re in a whole new stage of playoff hockey that I haven’t experienced since I was a teenager. I’ll admit I was cheering for Florida to win, both because that offense against the Leafs should make for a more entertaining series, but most importantly to me is that Boston losing means the Leafs’ first round draft pick (that was originally Boston’s) will automatically become four spots better (28th).
Florida has the forward depth to match Toronto’s, but not necessarily the defensive depth. They probably have just as much of a question mark in goal too. Toronto should have an easier time getting offense going without having to face Tampa’s relentless pressure and defense, but they’ll have a more dangerous offense to deal with. It will probably be a much different kind of hockey in the series than we’ve experienced against Tampa, but I’m here for it.
I’m excited to see what Keefe does with the lineup, now that he’s figured out he can play Bunting AND Knies AND Kerfoot. It just means taking away from the not-very-effective fourth line. Being able to roll Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares, ROR, Knies, Bunting, Jarnkrok, Acciari and Kerfoot makes for a deep group of forwards. And Keefe can turn up the line blender with them depending on what he needs at any given moment and/or ride the hot hands that are playing well.
Cathy: So many plans. I am really looking forward to the next round. I’m not predicting a win, I just want to see that team that never stops out there on the ice again. The level of return on viewer investment the Leafs are giving in the playoffs vs the regular season actually makes having watching that California road trip a little less aggravating. I do hope the next round is a little more open, a little more Leafs being Leafs.
The Florida Panthers don’t look to be a team that’s even heard of clogging up the neutral zone. They play a counterpunching rush style, and they have the ability to do some pretty nifty things offensively. They do not shoot from the safe places, they get in the goalie’s face. Ilya Samsonov is going to see more of Matthew Tkachuk’s butt than all the Leafs put together.
Things I’m looking forward to: Mitch Marner laughing at old friend Tkachuk. Auston Matthews laughing at his friend’s old friend. Luke Schenn clearing the crease. A team with a fairly dull power play for a change.
Things I want to avoid: Radko Gudas ever on the ice with Matthew Knies, though Conor Timmins getting in a game just once, and walking him would be awesome. Anyone taking the Panthers too lightly. Excess coverage of Paul Maurice’s stale bench antics. Whinging about the Panthers’ ticket policies.
Species: First, I have to plug the Marlies. Their first round series against the Utica Comets is tied 1-1. The teams now move to Utica for two games, and fortunately this time they play on the Leafs off-days, with the next game on Wednesday and then Friday.
The rest of my time will be spent worrying about the Leafs series, and first off the inevitable confrontation between Michael Bunting and Matthew Tkachuk. I am both terrified and reassured that Bunting can hold his own against the mouthguard chomper, but they are like matter and antimatter on the ice, either they stay carefully contained, or they annihilate each other in a massive explosion of energy, there’s no inbetween there, and the latter event could get very messy and cause others to go out with them.
The next Leaf I’m thinking about is Matthew Knies and his fantastic debuted. Whether or not that experiment of playing him on the first line holds up is something to watch, along with whether the 11F 7D continues. Keefe loves that setup and I recall many years ago when he started using it during the Marlies playoffs. I think he goes with it, and Game #1 starts with Knies-Matthews-Nylander.
And who can’t wait for a Paul Maurice meltdown when the Leafs win Game #1. There will be a lot of very memeable quotes. Also I look forward to more of the GIFs from Omar of Keefe’s perplexed, angry, and confused reactions to the events of the game, and to the officials.
Adam: Going to take it one game at a time. All we need is four wins, and we have seven games to do it. I feel no pressure as a fan about anything else that is going to happen. I have no urgencies or worries. It’s the Panthers, who worries about them?
My old friend Matthew Tkachuk is back, I last watched him in the playoffs in 2016 when the London Knights beat the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL Finals. That series taught me a lot about Mitch Marner and Tkachuk.I was thrilled one was a Leaf, and I wished the other was as well. He’s a shit weasel, and plays like one, but I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating cookies.
Just win baby!