Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs look on Auston Matthews for a win half-way home.

I wouldn’t be confidence in the Toronto Maple Leafs ability to finish out a five-goal lead in game four of a series they were winning three-to-none.

That isn’t so much an indication of the team as it is of this fan’s lack of confidence – because when you’re a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, they don’t simply lose, they gut you with the most ridiculous outcomes.

Consider the case of Nazem Kadri.  No player is more personally responsible for the Leafs’ current failure to go past the first round, yet when forced to be traded due to his immaturity, he goes on to win the Cup.

That cannot be made up.

This is a team that managed to be the best in 16 of 19 games while losing three series.

But this year appears to be different, even if only because the law of averages says the Toronto Maple Leafs will finally break through.

Perhaps that break occurred on Saturday, when they won their first ever playoff game (or so it appears) while finishing as the second best team.  Since the Boston series, when the Leafs lost to Columbus, Montreal, and Tampa, they have not won a single game in which they were not clearly the better team, and that is something you have to do if you want to win a series, let alone a championship.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are aiming for their third victory.

A win today would be critical for the Leafs because it would save them from having to play a clinching game in Tampa.  It would offer them two chances to win the series at home, and you couldn’t ask for much more from this team.

While Morgan Rielly, Ilya Samsonov, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Ryan O’Reilly have all had big games, the Leafs have made it this far without a game-changing performance from Auston Matthews.

If there was ever a time for the team’s best player to step up and put on a show, this is it.

Matthews hasn’t been horrible this series; in fact, he’s been very brilliant, leading the team with a 59% puck-possession rating and a stunning, team-leading 65% Expected Goals rating. 

He has ten shots and leads the squad in both individual shot attempts (20) and scoring opportunities (six).

He’s been the Leafs’ best player, but his results haven’t been stellar.

Still, it speaks to how excellent he is and how high expectations are that he has five points in three games, leads the team in every non-scoring stat, and people are still criticising his play (those people aren’t necessarily the sharpest, just the loudest).