The Toronto Maple Leafs are beneath extra stress than another workforce on this 12 months’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They should win, and they should win large.
That’s the reason their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday evening is the worst doable begin to the postseason for them, their followers and just about everyone related to the workforce.
What places the Maple Leafs beneath such a lot scrutiny, other than enjoying in a hockey-mad market that has not received a championship since 1967, is the actual fact the group has not received a playoff collection since 2004.
Even worse is that this present core, led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, has misplaced within the opening spherical of the playoffs in six consecutive seasons.
They’ve misplaced in each doable approach.
As favorites, underdogs, by blowing large collection leads, and by getting downright outplayed.
Each collection loss, and even each recreation loss, brings again emotions of the “usual Leafs” that may’t get it accomplished.
This 12 months was imagined to be totally different.
It must be totally different.
Not solely had been the Maple Leafs one of many league’s greatest groups throughout the common season, however the matchup with Tampa Bay is definitely seen as considerably favorable for them.
Regardless that the Lightning have been within the Stanley Cup Ultimate in every of the previous three seasons, that’s lots of hockey to be performed and that has to take a toll on a workforce bodily.
They’ve additionally actually struggled down the stretch and haven’t been enjoying their greatest hockey going into the playoffs. Mix the truth that Toronto has home-ice benefit, and that the Lightning could possibly be susceptible, and one other first-round loss shouldn’t be going to be acceptable in Toronto.
The large subject on Tuesday was beginning goalie Ilya Samsonov giving up six objectives on 29 photographs earlier than being pulled. Goaltending was the massive query mark for Toronto coming into this season as administration gambled on the duo of Samsonov and Matt Murray, two goalies that had been among the many least productive netminders within the league a 12 months in the past.
Murray struggled once more this 12 months and is at the moment sidelined with an damage, whereas Samsonov had a depressing begin on Tuesday.
Expectations are excessive this workforce. Calls for are even increased from the fan base and Toronto media. Confidence must be low after that opening recreation.