Photo Source: Editor in Leaf
It’s that time of year again when Leaf fans put together the pieces of their broken hearts and get prepared for another season. The fans all know the drill. Things start to look up during the regular season; the excitement builds, the hope of winning the cup for the first time since 1967 becomes stronger than ever, and come playoffs, the harsh reality sets in.
Not to re-open old wounds, but the last playoff series against the Canadians was a real shot to the heart. The Canadians and the Leafs haven’t met in the playoffs since 1979, so it was sure to be a battle. But when the Leafs had a 3-1 lead, the belief that they’d make it through to the next round was too strong; how could it not be they were right there. How the Leafs let it get to Game 7 is beyond fans, and indeed everyone is still trying to figure out where it all went wrong. But in all fairness, everyone is still trying to figure out where it all went wrong in the 2013 playoff series against Boston. Game 7, 4-1 lead for the Leafs, and then Boston takes the win. All that can be said about that is, how? With this past series, it didn’t help to have Tavares and Muzzin injured, and Matthews and Marner seemed to have left their playing abilities in the locker room.
However, no need to dwell on the past. It’s a new season, and as the true fans will say, “this year is our year.” Coach Sheldon Keefe has agreed to a two-year contract extension. Since replacing Mike Babcock in November 2019, Keefe is finally going to have his first full season. Due to COVID restrictions, his first two seasons were unconventional. This season will be the first time getting to see Keefe fully in action, and it’s going to be interesting to see where he takes the team this year. Preseason has gotten off to a great start with wins against both the Canadians and the Senators. Michael Bunting is leading the team with four goals in 3 games, 3 of which were on a powerplay. Matthews had injured his wrist and underwent surgery on August 13th. He was said to have a 6-week recovery time and is already back on the ice training, so it’s promising that he will be available to start the regular season.
This core has proven time and time again that they can compete with and defeat some of the more formidable teams in the league during the regular season. When it comes to the playoffs, it’s not that they aren’t capable or good enough to get past the first round because they very much are. The pressure in big moments seems to get to them. If they can find a way to come through in the clutch, they are a team that could make a deep cup run. Time will tell if this team can finally get over the hump, but for now, Leafs fans have their annual dose of hope.