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.)
Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.
They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.
Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.
Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.
You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:
Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.
Read about that blowout here.
Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.
Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”
It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.
The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.
This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.
Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.
On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.
We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.
Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.
After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.
Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.
The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.
Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.
Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:
Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.
Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.
Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.
It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.
After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.
Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:
Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.
The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.