I don't know what to think about the Leafs, this series or anything about the playoffs right now. I'm not very optimistic, but I've never been more irritated by outlandish performative pessimism. It's so Leafy, and we can't have niiiiice things. I'm annoyed at the way the top forwards played parts of Game 2, and I've never been more irritated and the post hoc ergo bad defenceman theorizing. Put him on the third pair!! Who? All of them!!! Okay, those two things aren't contradictory like the first two are. I have no patience for the one good period argument from Game 3 when it comes after one really, really bad period. But the Corsi, though...
The Leafs series isn't like this:
Where after a 50-50 Game 1, where the Devils just seemed a little overwhelmed, they came back and got... smoked hard, giving up a 57% Corsi and 61% xG to the team who is usually all shotshare, no quality. Oh, and four goals at five-on-five. The Devils look like kids at the adults table for the first time.
This, you may recall, is not the Leafs first time.
Toronto gave up a 58% Corsi in Game 1, which reduced down to 49% xG. That's hard to do against a team that just doesn't waste shots while shooting more even than the Hurricanes. In Game 2, the Leafs came back with dominating shotshare, very good xG and their brains left in the jacket pocket of their very sharp suits.
Toronto is shooting/being forced to shoot from less than prime locations. But if you include the power plays, which Toronto gets a lot of, the picture evens right up over the two games:
The difference, the "just one thing", the key to the series, the deciding factor really is the brain thing.
Them guys paid $11 million just don't show up. Lazy bums. I don't think that's even really the case in the famous series against the Habs where Matthews was shit and Marner was worse. But on average whhaaa whaaaa whaaa. I didn't care then that the Leafs looked like they could have won it if only the series went nine games and I don't now. Matthews and Marner didn't seem to know what to do in that series, but if they'd had a clue, they'd have been up for it.
This time around, it's speed. Oh why are the Leafs so old and slow??? Why?? Yeah, because Kasperi Kapanen and Calle Rosen are the key ingredient missing here. Here's a thought: maybe the Leafs seem so slow because their defence – built to defend – spends all their time chasing the play on rush chances against, a problem created in the offensive zone, and not by Luke Schenn or Jake McCabe. No, the speed that's missing is all between the ears.
I once described the Leafs as a sportscar with a nitrous oxide tank in the trunk and the brakes cut. But they were so much fun then when they lost. Can't argue with that, they were more fun back then when they lost. They were also young and stupid like the Devils are today and they couldn't defend against an AHL team playing the back end of a three-in-three.
And none of this matters!
You can't coach someone to think faster. You can't just tell the Leafs that if they thought Tampa was tough, they just hadn't visited the other coast of Florida yet. The forwards are getting outplayed, outmanned (yes so is Liljegren, but that's just who he is) and they can't hold onto the puck in the offensive zone because they get forced into bad choices by reacting too slowly. They want their power play style long passes and they want to cycle this way, stop and turn and go round widdershins, stop and turn and...
Maybe it is coaching. Maybe it's mental fatigue. Maybe it's Maybelline. I don't know. Pick one, get angry and make that villain your personal demon. Because I could never really tell you why the Leafs looked like total losers in some games all season. Playing down to their opponents. A handy little truism that sounds smart and doesn't mean anything other than "they were lazy last night" which is really not the case now.
The Leafs today are a sportscar with the finest suspension and steering money can buy, good brakes, and all four tires slashed by the driver before he gets behind the wheel.
All we can do is hope they packed the suits they left their brains in for the trip to Florida down two games to none. And that someone on this team knows how to change a tire.