Toronto Maple Leafs are poised to blow another first-round series


Auston Matthews and the Leafs face another Game 7.

Auston Matthews and the Leafs face another Game 7.
picture: Getty Images

No one has ever tweeted about a Florida Panthers playoff series win as Carter Verhaeghe smashed into a 4-3 win last night after a Claude Giroux – Trade Deadline Acquisition pass and brought tons of substitute Panthers fans from Philadelphia – Florida Capitals led in overtime and a 4-2 win in the series.

The Panthers’ victory meant a few things. First, while we’re still set for a dream hockey weekend, we just missed out on a tie The record from 1992 half a dozen Game 7s in one round. It also means the Panthers no longer have the NHL’s longest postseason drought between wins. Now that Florida is off the hook after 24 years, the new team to have gone the longest without a handshake without then plodding into the offseason is … a 16-year lead since their last win in a series … you already know from the headline but take a minute and pretend you don’t know because of the drama…


Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose last win in a playoff series was so long ago, came in a year when the Ottawa Senators were actually in the playoffs, 2004. In the subsequent Eastern semifinals, the home team was caught between the Leafs and Flyers won each of the first five games, then Philly ended the streak in Game 6 in overtime.

Toronto then didn’t even make the playoffs until, after two lockouts, they finally returned to the Stanley Cup tournament in the shortened 2013 season, where they came back bravely from a 3-1 series deficit to take a 4-1 lead from Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri at the start of the third period and you know the rest.

The Leafs then survived a rebuild, put Auston Matthews in a completely unrigged draft lottery, and made it back to the playoffs in 2017, where they performed well against the Capitals and lost in six games in a series they were all in Game 4 (a 5-4 win in Washington) went into overtime.

2018: Came back from 3-1 down against the Bruins, this time just giving away a 4-3 lead in Game 7, losing 7-4.

2019: Managed not to get into a 3-1 hole against the Bruins but took a 3-2 lead in the series before losing Game 6 at home and being waxed 5-1 in the decider in Boston .

2020: In the bubble – in Toronto – it lost a best-of-five series to the Blue Jackets, who had won 33 of 70 games in the regular season.

2021: Took a 3-1 lead against a Canadian team that won 24 of 56 regular-season games and against whom the Leafs had won 7-2-1 in the regular season. Despite going into overtime in Games 5 and 6, Toronto didn’t lead in either game and certainly not in Game 7, 3-1 when William Nylander scored only after Montreal had already scored an empty goal on hold in the series.

And now here we are after the Florida Panthers moved on and the Leafs take on two-time Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning in a series that has seen Toronto lead 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 . What could possibly go wrong?

Here is another piece of history. The Maple Leafs haven’t beaten the defending champions since beating the Habs in six games in the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. So, all that stuff about the Leafs’ first-round misery? Either we add something tonight or they finally win the cup.

Bucks can’t close Celtics; Warriors send Memphis fishing

Over in the NBA, after not a single first-round series went the distance, all of the conference semifinals had reached Game 6, and on Friday night, like Thursday, one title contender moved on while another failed to close the deal.

Defending champion Bucks must return to Boston for a decider after squandering his chance to return to the conference finals with a 108-95 home loss. The night’s other home team held serve and wrapped up the win with the higher set, though it’s not like Golden State are really the underdogs against Memphis. The Grizzlies gave everything they had without Yes Morantbut returned a 110-96 verdict as the vulnerable but still elite three-time champ pulled away with a 32-19 in the fourth quarter.

That’s still a sports weekend with seven Game 7s, so buckle up because it’s going to be a lot of fun – and it is own recordalbeit one that feels much more literate.

Meanwhile in Arkansas…

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