The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Boston Bruins in Game 7

The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Boston Bruins in Game 7


The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Boston Bruins in Game 7

The Boston Bruins avoided making the wrong type of history on Saturday, May 4, beating the resurging Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime and advancing to the second round after surrendering a 3-1 series lead.

The Leafs, whose offensive prowess was considered their main strength entering the playoffs, failed to score more than one goal for the third time in their first-round matchup against the Bruins, and head coach Sheldon Keefe threw his team under the bus for not scoring more goals.

“When teams play the Leafs, they set up the game for the Leafs to beat themselves.”

HC, Sheldon Keefe after the Maple Leafs loss to the Bruins in Game 7.

“[The Bruins] protect their net better than any team in the NHL and they were content to do that,” Keefe told reporters after Game 7 on May 4. “It’s very evident. Teams play the Leafs, they set up the game for the Leafs to beat themselves.”

Those are rather deflating comments from the coach of a team that just crashed out of the playoffs without making it past the first round for the seventh time in the last eight seasons in which the Leafs made the postseason.

Sheldon Keefe Thinks Maple Leafs “Beat Themselves”

Keefe’s take is doubly damaging considering he seemed to accept that he just fell for Boston’s trap, or at least that he had no plan to overcome the challenge posed by the Bruins.

“I thought we did that in Games 3 and 4,” Keefe said in his postgame press conference. “We beat ourselves with how we played at home.”

The Leafs started Game 7 taking advantage of an error committed by the Bruins in their own zone. It was already the third period when William Nylander scored the first goal of the game (assisted by the returning Auston Matthews) following a mishandled puck recovered by the Leafs.

Outside of that, however, the Maple Leafs couldn’t put the puck past Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman again and they are now 0-6 in Game 7s since the first round of the 2013 playoffs. The Leafs are also 0-4 on the road in those games with all of those losses happening in Boston against the Bruins.

Will the Maple Leafs Break Their Core This Summer?

It’s fair to say that the Leafs were so close to beating the Bruins and pulling off a comeback for the ages after trailing Boston 3-1 in the first-round series.

That’s because injuries truly affected their chances of winning games in the playoffs.

To recap, Matthews missed the final period of Game 4, then Games 5 and 6 entirely with an undisclosed illness but returned for Game 7. Nylander didn’t play through the first three games. New starter on net Joseph Woll, who took the assignment with the series already on, was ruled out for Game 7.

All of that, paired with the subpar production by all stars in the roster from Matthews (69 regular-season goals) to Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, and John Tavares (all three combined for 2 goals in the first round), made it impossible for Toronto to get over the hump.

Changes are likely coming for the Leafs but just a reminder that ‘blowing it up’ is not easy with core guys with full no-move clauses. Players have lots of leverage with those clauses. Trades are rarely full value as a result. Something to remember in the weeks ahead.

With their season over and no hockey in Toronto until next fall, the next thing the franchise will need to address is what to do next with both its core players (namely Marner, Nylander, Matthews, and Tavares) and head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Keefe signed a two-year extension that kicks off next August. There is a chance he doesn’t make it all the way there and gets fired before the summer.

Keefe’s extension and presence in Toronto next season, however, will depend on what the Leafs’ stars decide to do with their own careers. All of them have no-move clauses that can be triggered to block any trade Toronto agrees to with another franchise, which might force the Leafs into riding their current roster forward and just make a change at the coach position.

The Game 7 loss is tough for Leafs fans but the decisions looming on the horizon of the franchise are going to be even harder to make for the organization.

Antonio Losada covers the NHL for A veteran sports writer based in Spain, Antonio has covered the NBA, NFL and soccer for over 10 years, with bylines at SB Nation, FanSided, Yahoo Sports, FanGraphs, RotoBaller and more. He has also been nominated for multiple FSWA awards, including Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year. More about Antonio Losada

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