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.)
You know a playoff series is starting to rev up when teams can’t even peacefully share an ice surface during warm-ups.
The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to draw a red line in the sand between each other before Game 3, with the two sides exchanging a couple bumps and mean looks.
It’s … honestly a pretty amusing spectacle.
You can watch it all in the video above. Perhaps this GIF will fuel a meme or two:
Brian Boyle downplayed the exchange(s):
The Pittsburgh Penguins recalled tough guys Tom Sestito and Steve Oleksy from the AHL on Tuesday.
This move makes a sense for a couple of reasons.
Most clearly, things are getting nasty between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, so Pittsburgh is bringing in a couple of brutes. Each player isn’t shy about piling up penalty minutes, whether that be in the NHL or AHL.
The other reason: with injuries and Kris Letang‘s suspension, Oleksy could provide some depth. Justin Schultz is motivated to prove himself, yet Oleksy provides a little insurance.
Is it the ideal scenario in a big playoff game? Nope, but if brute force ends up being a factor, the Penguins added some muscle.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to take the series lead for the first time against the New York Islanders, who are trying to regain the advantage on home ice at the Barclays Center after a split in Tampa Bay. You can catch Game 3 between these teams on NBCSN (7 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
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Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
Strome saga continues, will be a healthy scratch for Game 3
Halak practices fully, hoping to be back soon
Artem Anisimov on Tuesday underwent successful surgery on his injured right wrist, the Chicago Blackhawks announced.
“We anticipate his return to full hockey activities in approximately six to eight weeks,” said team physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement.
The news comes eight days after the Blackhawks were ousted in the first round, eliminated in seven games by the St. Louis Blues.
Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in last summer’s blockbuster deal for Brandon Saad, the 27-year-old Anisimov enjoyed the second 20-goal season of his career and fell just two points shy of his previous career best of 44 when he was with the New York Rangers.
He played the bulk of this season on a line with two highly skilled players in Patrick Kane, the league-leader in points with 106, and Artemi Panarin, named as a Calder Trophy finalist on Monday.
In March, Anisimov was named to Russia’s preliminary roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, although the recovery schedule outlined above should allow plenty of time for Anisimov to be physically ready for the tournament when it begins in September.
Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks, who won’t be champs in 2016