The Maple Leafs’ Season is at Risk after just 66 Seconds

The Toronto Maple Leafs' chances of escaping the second round of the NHL playoffs plummeted in a short period of time on Thursday. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto Maple Leafs’ chances to make it out of the NHL second round playoffs in a relatively short time period on Thursday plummeted. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports).

After making it out of the first round For the first time since 19 years, it is unlikely that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be able punch their ticket to the second round.

It’s not an opinion about the team and “unlikely is not definitive.” It is a simple fact that most teams that lose 2-0 in a playoff series in NHL end up playing golf within ten days.

New Jersey Devils bucked this trend during these playoffs. But teams that have taken a 2-0 advantage in NHL postseason series are 343-55 all-time. Florida Panthers fans have a good reason to be happy right now.

The Maple Leafs appeared to be in a very different situation in Game 2 than they are now.

Toronto clearly had the advantage in the opening period. It outshot Florida with 16-9 and 63.64% of scoring opportunities, 77.78% for high-danger shots, and 72.79% for the expected goals. This underlying advantage led to a score of 2-1.

The Maple Leafs were in control of the game as they entered the second half with a one-goal advantage. The Maple Leafs were not assured of a 1-1 tie, but they had a good chance to win.

Then in the first 66 seconds of the second period the game — and Toronto’s chances of a deep playoff run — changed significantly.

Jake McCabe started the day with a smear of icing.

Via Sportsnet NOW

Via Sportsnet now

This was a basic play which went slightly wrong.

William Nylander was supposed to deflect the puck into Florida’s area, but it did not quite reach his stick. It’s difficult to determine who was at fault but the maneuver was low-ceiling and medium-risk. The best case scenario was an entry with a chase and dump, while the worst case is an icing.

After the icing there was still very little reason for alarm as the Maple Leafs’ line wasn’t tired in the slightest — and Toronto trusts Ryan O’Reilly in a defensive-zone faceoff scenarios.

Toronto was able clear the neutral area quickly, but Nylander’s inability stickhandle the neutral resulted a rush in the opposite direction.

Via Sportsnet NOW

Via Sportsnet now

It’s the kind of play that Maple Leafs supporters often blame Nylander for. There is no good defense for a turn over like that.

It is true that the mistaken play did not create a dangerous opportunity. Ilya Samuelonov, who was awkwardly stabbing his glove at a shot that came in from a bad angled angle and with little velocity, made Nylander’s mistake even worse.

Via Sportsnet NOW

Via Sportsnet now

By 19 seconds of the second half, Nylander and Samsonov had combined their mistakes to tie the game. For the second goal, it took a combination of individual mistakes.

Michael Bunting was sent to retrieve the dump that Florida attempted after Auston Matthews’ line failed to gain control of Florida’s zone following a simple dump-and chase forecheck.

The Maple Leafs’ winger managed the situation in the worst possible way. The 27-year-old was slow to react and when he retrieved the puck, he casual dropped it back — right to Matthew Tkachuk — then toppled to the ground in the ensuing battle.

Via Sportsnet NOW

Via Sportsnet now

Matthews, with his solid stickwork and McCabe’s sharp outlet pass, put Mitch Marner into a good position to escape from the zone.

Eetu was advancing on the winger, but he chose to pass it back to the centre instead:

Via Sportsnet NOW

Via Sportsnet now

Matthews found himself in a difficult situation and was unable in a split-second play to chip the ball past Luostarinen.

Florida was able to start a counterattack — and the Panthers converted on another chance to earn a lead they wouldn’t relinquish:

Via Sportsnet NOW

Via Sportsnet now

The Maple Leafs’ performance in this sequence was a disaster.

Bunting and Matthews both attacked Anton Lundell. This left the team with a 3-on-2 situation at the back. McCabe failed to do much in order to pressure Tkachuk’s passing, and Gustav Forsling was left alone.

The Maple Leafs had to do a lot of things wrong to allow the Panthers to escape in less than a minute.

The team’s best neutral zone puck handler was forced to drop the puck on the ice in the middle. Selke Trophy The candidate made a terrible decision in his zone and the goaltender who led them on in their zone. Game 6 win The Tampa Bay Lightning were forced to concede a goal that NHL goalies simply do not allow.

The combination of these factors led them into a hole from which they were unable to climb in Game 2. The series deficit is one few teams can overcome.

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