Maple Leafs ‘sick and tired’ of falling short in playoffs

Maple Leafs ‘sick and tired’ of falling short in playoffs

In a way, that makes it worse.

The Maple Leafs haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. They’ve been eliminated in the first round in the last six seasons, including losing a deciding game in each of the last five.

This time, they went toe-to-toe with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.

“This one hurts more, because this was a really good team that really played hard,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “And the fact that you come so close against that team.

“You can debate the merits of any kind of credit that you can give our team, but I don’t know if you can debate anything that you give to the Tampa Bay Lightning and who they are and what they stand for and what they’ve accomplished.” We are standing there with them.”

[RELATED: Complete Maple Leafs vs. Lightning series coverage]

Keefe said that based on the fact that the Maple Leafs were so close to the Lightning, who knows what could have happened if they could have won the series.

“This one is tough,” Keefe said, “because I feel like we’re a lot closer than it seems.”

The Maple Leafs surpassed team records for wins (54) and points (115) in the regular season, finishing fourth in the NHL standings. They had their first 60-goal scorer in the center auston matthews.

But they played in such a tough division, the Atlantic, that they finished second to the Florida Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy as the best regular-season team in the NHL.

As a result, his reward was a first-round matchup with the Lightning, who are trying to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in three straight seasons since the New York Islanders won it four in a row between 1980 and 1983.

The series went back and forth, with the teams alternating wins in the first six games, with Game 7 being a coin toss.

In situations like this, attention often turns to the best players on a team, especially attacking forwards. It is true that Matthews, mitchell marner, William Nylander Y John Tavares he didn’t score in Game 7. They didn’t shine when it mattered most.

But neither are the best Lightning players. Both of Tampa Bay’s goals came from up front. Nicholas Paula seven-year NHL veteran who had never scored in the playoffs until Saturday night.

Matthews finished with nine points (four goals, five assists) in the series, Marner had eight (two goals, six assists), Nylander seven (three goals, four assists) and Tavares and defenseman morgan rielly each had six (three goals, three assists).

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to go all the way and we haven’t been able to get over this hurdle here,” Tavares said. “We worked all year to build our game, to put ourselves in a good place and be ready for these opportunities, and I think we were. I think it’s a fine line.”

If you’re looking for the reasons the Maple Leafs lost the series, it’s little things, like two turnovers and a penalty that led to Lightning goals in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6, like a penalty that disallowed a Tavares goal in Game 7, as missed opportunities against tough opposition.

Shot attempts were 73-45, Toronto, in Game 7. Tampa Bay blocked 26 shots.

“A lot of reasons to be proud, but a lot of reasons to be devastated and upset,” Keefe said. “Feel good about the effort they put in, that they gave us everything they had, but you fall short. We’re in the winning business.”

And now that? The Maple Leafs don’t need to make any major changes in management, coaching staff or roster.

Not too long ago, the Lightning couldn’t break their way.

They lost in the Stanley Cup final in 2015 and the Eastern Conference final in 2016. After missing the playoffs in 2017, they lost again in the conference final in 2018 before being swept in the first round in 2019.

But they didn’t overreact. They kept the core of him and they stayed with him.

“It’s not easy this time of year”, Captain Lightning Steven Stammos saying. “We talked about it as a group before. We’ve had some failures in the past, and you just move on. You just have to get over that bump. That’s the thing. Sometimes it gets mental, but it certainly didn’t.” because [the Maple Leafs are] it’s not worth it. They are.

“That was one of the toughest series we’ve probably ever played. They’ve got the star players. They’ve got the goalie. They’ve got some solid defenders. Down on the roster, they’ve got everything. It’s just that we believed in ourselves as well.”

Still, the Maple Leafs need to make adjustments, and they need to keep growing to find the other side of that fine line.

Marner said it starts with everyone needing to train harder in the offseason to come back stronger, faster and faster.

“We’re sick and tired of feeling this way,” Marner said. “So we have to make sure we’re ready for next season.”

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