By: David Tuchman
The Toronto Maple Leafs are playing really well. Maybe too well.
In the past two games the Leafs continuously battled back from two goal deficits and gave the Washington Capitals, the best team in the league, to have fits. Heck, the Leafs even won one of those games.
The series is now tied at two games apiece, but it’s the Leafs who are looking the better team. Yet here’s the problem: They run the risk of waking up the sleeping giant.
To explain, there is no doubt in the world that Washington has a way better team. They have the best goal scorer in the league and one of the best goalies in the league. They have a coach who on many levels is on par with the Leaf’s “God-tier” coach, Mike Babcock. I use quotations because Babcock hasn’t made it out of the first round since 2010, and yet he is still considered the best in league.
And here’s the thing: great teams always find a way to ratchet it up to the next gear when they are put into a corner. So yes, the Leafs are showing the hockey world that they are nothing to mess with, but beware of becoming too elated because the inevitable failure is about to start.
Now, of course, this could be very, very wrong. And I would be the first person to admit it. But the thing is, we have seen this story before and every single time it ended up like this: the team that surprised everyone gets bounced and the winners, with their new-found mojo, go all the way to the Stanley Cup.
For example, in 2013, Toronto was up three games to two on the Boston Bruins going into game six. Do I really need to remind everyone what happened in that series? Boston tied the series up and then, in game seven, with Toronto up four to one, Boston surged in the last 10 minutes of the last period and won the game in overtime.
Needless to say, Boston went all the way to Stanley Cup (they lost to Chicago) and the Leafs failed to even make the playoffs again until this season. This exact same story can play out again for the Leafs.
In 2015, the same script happened in the Tampa Bay-Detroit series. Babcock, who was the Detroit Red Wings coach at the time, had his team leading the series going into game six. And again, Tampa Bay stormed back to win the series and ultimately go all the way to the Stanley Cup final (where they also lost to Chicago).
I really don’t want to take anything away from Leaf’s. They have given Washington more than their money’s worth. It’s pretty clear that they have been the more energized team and that their effort level has been significantly higher than that of the Capitals.
But I just can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen this story before.