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?