The Maple Leafs’ intermission musical montage, based on scenes from the Shanaplan rebuild, includes the line: ‘This time, we’ll get it right’.
If it’s getting past Game 7 in Boston, that will be a huge step ahead indeed to develop the long-sought winning mindset. Though the Leafs missed their chance Sunday to eliminate the Bruins in Game 6 at home, it seemed this see-saw series was destined to go seven. So for many of those Leafs involved in the two heartbreaks in The Hub, it’s a shot at redemption as well as recalculating their Stanley Cup route.
“The only way you can learn is to go through it,” winger Connor Brown said following a 4-2 loss as equipment bags around him at SBA were packed for one more practice day instead of a rest before the series winner takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.
Brown and many others still have scars from Game 7 last year at TD Garden, where Toronto kept it close before it got away in the third period of a 7-4 final. Jake Gardiner and the suspended Nazem Kadri also were there in 2013, when a three-goal lead went poof in a 5-4 overtime loss. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask were, and still are, big wheels in Boston.
“But we feel confident,” Brown insisted. “We feel we’re doing all the right things and staying patient, so things are going to happen. In all three games in which we’ve won (two in Boston), we’ve gone to get them and haven’t given them the opportunities, haven’t had those breakdowns.
“Game 5, we played a good game the whole game. We couldn’t find one and it took us 50 minutes to score. If it takes 50 (on Tuesday), we have to stick with it and find a way.”
Coach Mike Babcock saw no outward sign of his team being too lax or over-pumped before the game.
“I thought we were really ready, we were jumping big time,” he said. “But then, as soon as we had a little adversity and they scored twice, we didn’t recover. I don’t know if that’s the emotions that got the better of us, but we couldn’t get it back in check.
“To say we weren’t ready, that would be totally wrong. We started really well, we played really well and then, boom.”
It was unquestionably the season’s most fired up pre-game crowd on Bay St., inside and out of the arena.
“I don’t know if we were too pumped to start,” Brown said. “But they came in fighting for their lives and their power play goals deflated us a little bit. After that, they had the momentum, but that third period, we showed a lot of resilience and almost came back.”
Neither team has managed to win two in a row, the first time since 2002 and 1994 that six post-season games in a series for the Leafs unfolded in such a manner. They won both those matchups against Ottawa and San Jose, respectively, but are trying to avoid what happened in 1950 versus Detroit when a loss-win-loss-win trend stuck all the way through to a 1-0 overtime Game 7 defeat.
The Leafs have played 23 seventh games since 1939, with a record of 12-11.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019