The Toronto Maple Leafs aren't actually doing this, right?
That's the question on every hockey fan's mind after the Maple Leafs squandered an opportunity to advance to the second round with Thursday's 4-3 overtime setback to the Montreal Canadiens.
After fighting back from a 3-0 hole to force OT, the Leafs – who took the ice at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena with a 3-1 series lead – quite literally threw the game away. Alex Galchenyuk's brutal turnover to Cole Caufield in the first minute of overtime initiated a 2-on-0 break that ended with Nick Suzuki putting the puck in the back of the net to cut the Canadiens' series deficit to 3-2 as action shifts back to Montreal.
Even in a vacuum the Game 5 setback was a punch in the gut. Of course, nothing the Toronto Maple Leafs do occurs in a vacuum.
Nick Suzuki (@nsuzuki_37) won’t forget this one! Game 6, here they come. #StanleyCuppic.twitter.com/fH8eSQonf9
No team in the NHL is under more pressure than the Maple Leafs, and few teams receive as much attention. Every mistake and every setback is heavily scrutinized by a hockey-mad market, and given more weight by the franchise's half-century of postseason futility.
In case you haven't heard: The Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967, the last year of the NHL's "Original Six" era. They haven't even played for it since then. They have not won a playoff series at all since 2004.
This new era of the Maple Leafs was supposed to change things. Spearheaded by forwards Auston Matthews (first overall pick in 2016), Mitch Marner (fourth overall in 2015), William Nylander (eighth overall in 2014) and defenseman Morgan Rielly (fifth overall in 2012) the Leafs finally built a young, exciting core through the draft they'd been lacking for quite some time.
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