Toronto Maple Leafs playoff history adds extra pressure heading into Game 7

maple leafs game 7
May 4, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) battle for position in game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs had it right there in Game 6. A chance to advance past the first round in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 when they beat the Ottawa Senators in 7 games.

Holding a 3-2 lead going into the third period, they gave up a power play goal to Nikita Kuvcherov and then the OT winner by Brayden Point. The Tampa Bay Lightning now ride into Toronto with all the momentum and confidence that being back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions will give you.

“Game 7s, as they say, flip a coin,” Bolts captain Steven Stamkos said on Friday. “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s about wins this time of the year, and this group has proved that we don’t care how it gets done. We just want to get it done.”

Maple Leafs have all the pressure

Dating back to 2018, Toronto has failed to close out a series they were even or had a lead in. The most infamous came last season up 3 games to 1 over the Montreal Canadiens in a monumental first-round choke.

“I can only speak from afar, I’ve been watching the series — they do look different,” Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher told Pierre LeBrun. “We’ll see how they handle it.’’

So can the Maple Leafs shake off blowing another chance to close out a series against a far more difficult opponent?

“We can’t change anything now,” Hart Trophy finalist Auston Matthews said. “It’s about this next game and going out there with the purpose and details and competing for 60 minutes or whatever it takes.”

Leafs captain John Tavares, who was knocked out of that first round series against Montreal due to a serious injury likes the team’s battle level.

toronto maple leafs
May 4, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) tries to keep Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) away from the front f the net during the third period of game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

“We just kept on competing, just kept our composure, and we just kept playing,” Tavares said. “We worked, got the lead. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out where we were able to hold it, but we stayed with it. We kept pushing, finding chances and opportunities.”

It’s going to be that kind of attitude today when they try and move on to Round 2, where the Presidents’ Trophy Winner Florida Panthers await. They knocked off the Washington Capitals in six games to take their series on Friday night.

Leafs confident going into Game 7

It’s been 55 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup in 1967. After being knocked out last year, they now hold the dubious distinction of longest championship drought in the NHL once held by the New York Rangers at 54 seasons.

Of course, the Leafs are not thinking that far ahead and want to focus on the task at hand.

“We’re not gonna talk about the past. We just got to think about here now,” Mitch Marner said heading into Game 7.

To a man, this group is going to have to dig deeper than ever before to be an experienced and talented team.

“They’re two-time Stanley Cup champions,” Leafs blue-liner Morgan Rielly said. “They know how to handle these situations. And we’re trying to break through.”

Tonight presents an incredible opportunity for a team that has been talking about winning a Stanley Cup from the start of the season.

That being said, another first-round exit to mean big changes for the Leafs this summer.