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Maple Leafs potential playoff path is an unenviable one

Ahhhhhhhh, it’s parade-planning season in Toronto.

The Toronto Maple Leafs completed 2017-18 with a franchise-best 49 wins and 105 factors en path to a second straight playoff look, and the membership was rewarded with a murderous draw and an unenviable potential path to the Stanley Cup Final.

Yeah, let’s possibly maintain off on that parade for a bit.

Finishing third within the division, a place they primarily held comfortably all season lengthy, Toronto can have house ice benefit for precisely zero rounds this postseason which, contemplating the Leafs have been one of solely 5 groups to win a minimum of 29 video games on house ice this 12 months, is not perfect.

Aside from the entire not-having-home-ice factor, the playoff format because it’s at the moment constructed has the Leafs on a collision course with three of the league’s official Stanley Cup contenders earlier than they even take into consideration making it out of the Eastern Conference.

Division rivals Tampa Bay and Boston, and the two-time defending Cup champion Penguins are possible all on the docket for a Leafs group which has an opportunity (A CHANCE), if all the things falls into place, to succeed in it’s first convention ultimate since 1999 after they have been ousted by ol’ Slinky-Spine Dominik Hasek and the Sabres in 5 video games.

Round 1 — Bruins. The 2013 collapse is lengthy within the rearview and so is the entire Kessel-Seguin-Yada-Yada-Yada state of affairs, however the Bruins are nonetheless a brutal opponent to must sq. up with within the opening spherical. Boston confirmed glimpses of being the NHL’s greatest group this season, together with a 25-game stretch in January and February when the Bruins went 20-2-Three and picked up 43 of a potential 50 factors. This group has a deadly first line with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand operating amuck all season lengthy, a 6-foot-9 behemoth on the backend who mustn’t be a lot enjoyable to play towards, and a goaltender in Tuukka Rask who can steal a collection by himself.

Round 2 — Lightning (in all probability). If they’ll struggle their well beyond the Bruins, the Leafs will get the pleasure of assembly up with the Eastern Conference champs in Round 2. The Lighting took three of 4 from Toronto throughout the common season and are led up entrance by Hart Trophy candidate Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and a supporting solid that includes the likes of Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson — the Lightning are four-lines deep and possess the terrifying capability to tear a recreation huge up in an actual hurry. They’re manned on the backend by perennial Norris candidate and absolute savage Victor Hedman, whereas Andrei Vasilevskiy was the far-and-away favorite to win the Hart Trophy till the final 6-Eight weeks of the season. Tampa solely had ten regulation losses at house all season.

Jun 11, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins middle Sidney Crosby (left) and middle Evgeni Malkin (proper) have fun with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in recreation six of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI/Pool Photo through USA TODAY Sports

Round Three — Pittsburgh (in all probability). And, if this younger and hungry Leafs squad is in a position to bust by each the Bruins and the Lightning, they may possible must face the two-time defending Cup champs in Pittsburgh, who laid an absolute beat down on the Flyers in Game one of their opening-round collection on Wednesday. Probably don’t must checklist all of the explanation why the Leafs ought to pray that the Pens get booted earlier than a potential third-round showdown, however right here they’re: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, greatest house document within the league, greatest energy play within the league, a goaltender with two Stanley Cups to his title in his first two seasons and a roster laden with championship rings.

Yikes.


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