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Can the Leafs recover from that Game 7 collapse?

Aug 8, 2013, 9:12 PM EDT

bruinsleafsgetty Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs made some significant strides last season, but to most, their shocking Game 7 collapse against the Boston Bruins ruins all the good memories. It brings up a tough question: can they bounce back after coughing up a late 4-1 lead in an elimination game?

A myriad of factors come into play, but on the bright side, they don’t need to look far for examples of teams who shook off crushing defeats (that some will call “choke jobs”).

The very team that stunned them on May 13 experienced similar pains. As you may remember, the Bruins gave up a 3-0 series and Game 7 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, ultimately ceding that second-round series. A year later, the Bruins avenged that embarrassment by dismantling the Flyers on their way to a rousing Stanley Cup win.

The cliche that you have to lose before you truly learn how to win does seem to have some merit in both hockey and sports in general. Virtually every NHL champion suffered some postseason growing pains before winning it all – the Gretzky Oilers observing the dynastic Islanders recovering more than partying after a 1983 championship victory is almost a fable at this point – with the 2011 Bruins’ turnaround ranking as one of the best recent examples.

(As this Fox Sports article points out, teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Red Sox and New York Giants experienced both extremes of the spectrum on their ways to championships.)

It’s all heartening for the Leafs, although for every team that bounces back, there are plenty who simply fade away.

With all that in mind, the question of whether Toronto can really shake off that loss comes down to answers for more specific questions, especially: did they really get better this offseason?

(That being said, they might want to stay on the attack instead of going into prevent defense mode the next time they’re nursing a big playoff lead.)

  1. jacketsfan7 - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    Yes

  2. detroitcityy - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    Worst team in hockey

    • sunderlanding - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:56 PM

      That’s why they have standings. Maybe when you can read you’ll figure out who the worst is.

  3. girouxed - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    No.

  4. govtminion - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    I’m not sure they’re a better team. I didn’t feel like goaltending was their big problem, so making the move to change there was confusing to me. I did think their defense was a bit shaky, and that doesn’t look better to me. I feel like this team is looking about the same as last year- likely to make a low playoff seed, but not a Cup threat at this point.

    That said, I don’t think the playoff loss will affect them too deeply. If anything, this may be something for them to rally around the way the Bruins did a few years ago. I’d think they’ll put it out of sight and out of mind, and focus on the new season. This team has far more to focus on than ancient history.

  5. chicagofansaretheworst - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    the day leaf nation died

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 9, 2013 at 3:32 AM

      Nope, Leafs Nation is like the Black Knight. That last Game 7? ‘Tis but a scratch.

  6. jacketsfan7 - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    They have no choice but to recover

  7. lowenni - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    I would say they can. If anything, it should inspire them to work harder. As James mentioned in the article, most teams experience some growing pains, and this was their first time in the playoffs in a LONG time. Look at it this way: they’re a young, inexperienced team that was minutes away from defeating a Stanley Cup finalist. It’s hardly fair to look at the Islanders’ 6 game series against the Penguins and say “Oh, they’re an up and coming team because they gave the Penguins a run for their money” and not say the same about the Maple Leafs, who were much closer to defeating the Bruins then the Isles’ were to the Pens. Now that they’ve had their experience and felt heartbreak they’ll come back even harder next playoffs. They’ve got a solid core in Phaneuf, Reimer, Lupul, Kessel, etc. and have a lot of young up and coming players such as Gardiner, Kadri, Franson and Reilly. This team is going to be very dangerous in the next few years.

    (I am NOT a Leafs fan, I can just respect a solid hockey team when I see one)

  8. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    They’ll be fine. That kind of thing stays with you, but it’s usually a motivator to not let it happen again. Look at Boston. The lost a 3-0 series lead AND a 3-0 game 7 lead to the Flyers in 2010, came back stronger from the experience.

    The fact the the Leafs were even in that series was something to be proud of. The last few season Boston has absolutely owned Toronto. Kessel was routinely shutdown and Seguin regularly lit Toronto up. That didn’t happen in the playoffs. Kessel was a leader, Seguin vanished the series went to the brink. Even after game 4 the team was written off as dead. It was supposed to be over in game 5.

    This offseason they added some leadership and playoff exerience with Bolland and Clarkson which will help in those situations. It is a better all around team moving forward into next season.

    Just need trade Liles and sign Kadri and Franson already.

  9. modellforprez - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    why cant they? Ask any bruin fan the leafs got farther than they should of anyway. the maple leafs beat the bruins 3 times in one series by contrast the penguins couldnt beat them once shhh they barely scored. the leafs can recover and they will.

  10. scotloucks - Aug 9, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Funny how this type of thing is considered a “Motivating factor” for every team in the league not call the “Toronto Maple Leafs”.

    Anybody asking that question has never played competitive sports in their lives. Recover? Consider them fully recovered and heavily motivated …. oh yeah, and full of confidence.

    I predict the Leafs will have the best record of all the Canadian teams in the East and only consider the Canucks as a team that might have a better record (Canadian) in the West … depending on how their “new coach” works out.

    Cheers

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      After watching Boston completely destroy Pittsburgh, how can anyone feel bad about what the Leafs did? Love that Kessel showed up and Seguin disappeared in the series too.

      The media was saying Kadri was invisible during the Bruins series, yet he had 4 points and was a +5. Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Neal, all got 0 points against the same team.

      No one can give the Leafs any credit. Like that newest, dumbest stat in sports showing how much “Luck” the Leafs had to make the playoffs. As if there was a way to measure “luck”. Maybe it’s the potent offense, and the defense that was a league leader in hits, blocked shots.

      Can’t wait for the season to start. This team is going to be fun to watch…. not for the haters though.

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