Toronto Maple Leafs on the verge of blowing up another first-round series

Toronto Maple Leafs on the verge of blowing up another first-round series

Auston Matthews and the Leafs face another Game 7.

Auston Matthews and the Leafs face another Game 7.
Image: Getty Images

No one ever tweeted about a Florida Panthers playoff series win before last night, when Carter Verhaeghe, following a pass from Claude Giroux – takeover of the trade deadline and bringing in tons of vicarious Philadelphia Panthers fans – took Florida for a 4-3 overtime victory over the Capitals, and a 4-2 series victory.

The Panthers’ victory meant a few things. First, while we’re still set for a dream hockey weekend, we haven’t been able to break even. 1992 record half a dozen games of 7 in a round. It also means the Panthers no longer have the longest drought in the NHL among postseason winning series. Now that Florida is out of the schneid after 24 years, the new team that has gone the longest without a handshake line that hasn’t been followed in the offseason is…with a 16-year gap since their last series win…you know. because of the headline, but stop a minute and pretend you don’t know for the drama…


Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose last win in a playoff series was so long ago, came in a year when the Ottawa Senators were actually in the playoffs, in 2004. In the eastern semifinals that followed, the home team between the Leafs and Flyers won each of the first five games, so Philly ended the series in overtime in Game 6.

Toronto then didn’t even make the playoffs until after a couple of lockouts, finally returning to the Stanley Cup tournament in the shortened 2013 season, where they valiantly came back 3-1 in the series, took a 4-1 goal lead by Phil Kessel and Nazem. Kadri at the start of the third period, and you know the rest.

The Leafs then went through a rebuild, got Auston Matthews in a totally unrigged draft lottery, and returned to the playoffs in 2017, where they put on a good showing against the Capitals, dropping six games in a series where all but Game 4 (Washington 5-4 win) went into overtime.

2018: Came back from a 3-1 loss to the Bruins again, only lost a 4-3 lead in Game 7 this time, lost 7-4.

2019: Managed to miss a 3-1 hole against the Bruins, instead taking a 3-2 series lead before losing Game 6 at home and being Waxed, 5-1, in the decision in Boston.

2020: In the bubble – in Toronto – lost a best-of-five series to the Blue Jackets, who won 33 of 70 games during the regular season.

2021: Gained a 3-1 series lead against a Canadiens team that won 24 of 56 regular season games and against whom the Leafs were 7-2-1 in the regular season. Although Games 5 and 6 went into overtime, Toronto didn’t lead in either of them, and they certainly didn’t lead in Game 7 3-1, when William Nylander only scored after Montreal had already scored an empty net goal for the ice the series.

And now here we are, with the Florida Panthers moving on, and the Leafs facing two-time Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning, in a series that Toronto led 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. What could go wrong?

There’s another piece of history here. The Maple Leafs haven’t beaten the defending champions since they defeated the Habs in six games in the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. So all that stuff about the Leafs’ first-round misery? Either we’re stepping up tonight, or they’re finally winning the Cup.

Bucks can’t close Celtics; Warriors send fishing in Memphis

In the NBA, after not having a single series in the first round, all of the conference semifinals reached Game 6, and on Friday night, as on Thursday, one title contender forged ahead while another failed to close. the deal.

Defending champion Bucks need to return to Boston for a decision after squandering their chance to return to the conference finals in a 108-95 home loss. The other home team of the night held the serve and ended up dropping the highest seed, though it’s not like Golden State were really the underdog against Memphis. The Grizzlies gave it all they had without Ja Morantbut lost a 110-96 verdict as the vulnerable but still elite three-time champions walked away with a 32-19 fourth quarter.

That still makes for a sports weekend with seven games 7, so buckle up, because it’s going to be a lot of fun – and indeed, a record in its own rightalthough it seems much more contrived.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas…

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