Leafs 1-4 Panthers: Where the series was lost
Toronto fans can point to questionable officiating, particularly in Game 5 of the second-round series, but the truth is the Maple Leaf weren't prepared for battle with the Boston-conquering Florida Panthers, and by the time their stars responded, it was too late.
OMAR: How did it go wrong? How did they lose? A lot of people, a lot of these fans, they might focus on game five specifically and point to the Morgan Rielly non-goal. He drives the net in front of Bobrovsky slides the puck through. Bobrovsky has his blocker over it. The Leafs celebrate.
It looks like he scored after a long, long review, it was about seven minutes, they deemed that there was no goal, because even though the ref didn't blow the whistle, the play was deemed dead. It looks bad, because the NHL started releasing all these different angles of the puck being underneath Bobrovsky over the line. But hey, the ref blew the play dead.
And I'm not going to focus on that. I'm not going to say that's why they lost. It was a contributing factor, for sure, it was frustrating. But that's not why they lost.
The main reason why they lost is because they decided to play in game 4. Game 1, they were bad. Game 2, they were bad. Game 3, they were worse. It wasn't until game 4 where they actually decided, hey, you know what? It's not the regular season. It's still the playoffs.
Hey, it's actually the second round of the playoffs. Let's actually start to ramp up the effort a little bit. Let's actually start to be a little more defensive. Let's actually start to be a lot more responsible and secure in front of our net. They waited until game 4 to do that.
First three games, no shows. Again, game 3 in particular, was the worst one. That goal, that game-winning goal in game 3 where Marner doesn't advance the puck, instead passes it back to Matthews. Turnovers take place, they can't recover the puck.
Samsonov is not moving over to the right enough in time, and Forsling scores it. That goal, I think, was a defining moment for the series. On the Leafs' end, it was a defining moment, because that's when they decided to turn it up a little bit. But overall, that was it. That was the dagger. They went down 3-0 after that.
And then here's the big thing. You can't win in a playoff game if you're only going to score two goals every single time. The way that this team is designed, Hap wise, and yes, we're going to have that conversation, they can't afford to only score two goals. They can't afford for their only consistent contributors to be Nylander and Morgan Rielly.
Mitch Marner had three. He scored in game 4. Auston Matthews didn't score the entire series. I don't even think John Tavares had a point. He might have got a point if that Rielly goal counted. But he didn't get a point. So it was just Nylander, and it was just Rielly, part of that core that's been here for a long time, who was actually able to contribute offensively.
But besides that, they've had to find scraps, scrap goals from everywhere else. And the way that this team is built, it can't work that way. So yes, Bobrovsky was great. He was solid.
And yes, officiating was iffy at times. But I'm not going to take that stance. I did that last year. I did that the year before. I'm not doing that this time.
You know why? Because officiating has always been bad, always. And it's not just us. It's bad everywhere. You watch any other game, officiating is bad. Deal with it.
We all knew the scouting report. We all knew what to expect. We all knew what kind of team that Florida was. And if you didn't, then you did not watch their first round series against Boston. Flat out.
If you were surprised and you were shocked and you were appalled of how hard and heavy Florida plays, weren't paying attention to them. Maybe the Leafs weren't. Again, maybe the Leafs went into this series thinking it'd be easy. Again, shout out to all those Leafs fans who were saying, we want Florida, which I get in hindsight.
If you take a step back, do you pick Florida? Or do you pick the team that literally broke NHL records everywhere in Boston? I get it. But it wasn't going to be easy, and it wasn't.
And Bobrovsky continued to be on his clean streak of good play. And Florida backed him up in that sense. And the Leafs just weren't prepared. That's what it comes down to it. They were not prepared for that series against Florida. They just weren't.
And if they were, then that makes those first three games in the series that much more difficult to stomach. The Leafs are out. And they have no one to blame but themselves.