TORONTO – (Report by Field Level Media) – The demons facing the Toronto Maple Leafs are right there for the exorcising.
With a chance Sunday afternoon in Toronto to eliminate the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of their opening round Stanley Cup playoff series, the Maple Leafs have a golden opportunity to wash away a long time’s worth of misery.
It’s been 15 years since the Maple Leafs last won a playoff series, a first-round, seven-game set with the Ottawa Senators. If you think that was a long time ago, consider the last time the Maple Leafs ousted the Bruins in the playoffs: 1959. Yes, it was 60 years ago when Toronto last punted the Bruins from the Stanley Cup chase, when the NHL was in its Original Six era.
“Party like it’s 1959” has a strange ring to it, but you can bet the city of Toronto is ready.
“The hardest game to win is the fourth game, to put the other team out, especially a proud group of guys,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said after his club’s clutch Game 5 win on Friday. “Now, it’s the process of learning how to do this and that’s all part of growing the group. It’s not easy, as you can see in the league. We will get prepared to really push.”
Surprisingly, the Bruins and Maple Leafs have only met five times in the playoffs since 1959 — the same year in which the Barbie Doll was launched and both Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states — but a couple of those are very recent.Boston crushed the hopes of Maple Leafs nation with seven-game wins in both 2013 and 2018.
However, the Maple Leafs — who are in the driver’s seat on the heels of their 2-1 win in Boston — believe they have an advantage over those teams of the recent past.Auston Matthews said his squad is doing a much better job of “working as a five-man unit instead of all being on our different programs.”
“When we’re breaking out clean like that, attacking the opposing team with our speed and skill, I think we make it hard on them, as well as taking care of the puck in the neutral zone,” Matthews told Postmedia. “When we’re just doing all those things, doing things right like that, it makes it tough for them to defend.”
The Bruins aren’t only looking to come back in the series, but also to recover from a controversial defeat. When Matthews opened the scoring with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation, it appeared that Zach Hyman made contact with Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Boston’s goaltender interference challenge was unsuccessful.”Clearly interferes with Tuukka,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
“It goes to Toronto, and they have to make a decision. I just hope they don’t predict whether they thought the goalie could make the save, get across in time, to determine whether it’s interference. It’s either interference or it’s not.”
The Bruins were rattled and surrendered the game-winner two minutes later, although a late push pulled them close.
“Everything is on the line now,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said of his team’s situation. “Obviously a missed opportunity, but there’s not much we can do right now about (Friday’s) game.
“Now it’s about moving forward and be ready to head … to Toronto and be ready for a big game.”
–Field Level Media