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3 Reasons for Toronto Maple Leafs Elimination From 2021 NHL Playoffs

Though most expected them to go on a deep playoff run, things quickly went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here are 3 reasons why.

While there were multiple upsets in the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the biggest one was without a doubt the Montreal Canadiens defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7. The Leafs entered the 2020-21 season with huge expectations, as most viewed them as not only the best Canadian team, but one of the best teams in the entire league. They certainly lived up to that reputation in the regular season as they finished with a superb 35-14-7 record for a division leading 77 points.

The one concern people had with the Leafs was their playoff woes in past years. Unfortunately, those with concerns turned out to be right, as they blew a 3-1 series lead and once again failed to advance past the first-round, something they have not been able to do since 2003. While there were many different things that went wrong in this series, here are the three main reasons they failed to advance to the second-round.

Related: 3 Reasons for Minnesota Wild’s Elimination From 2021 NHL Playoffs

3. Tavares’ Injury

Early into the opening game of this series, Leafs captain John Tavares suffered a very scary injury after catching an accidental knee to the head from Habs forward Corey Perry. Thankfully, the injury ended up not being as horrifying as it appeared to be for all watching, but was still enough to hold him out of the remainder of the series.

This loss left the Leafs not only without their leader, but perhaps their most complete player. Tavares finished third in team scoring with 50 points in 56 games. Had he been able to play, this series could have very well gone another way. However, injuries happen in this game and Toronto’s roster was certainly good enough on paper to get it done even without him.

2. Playoff Past

Whether the players on this team will admit it or not, the pressure put on them this year certainly played a role in them losing this series. This is a team who constantly gets discussed as being one of the best teams in the NHL, yet cannot seem to get anything done in the postseason. All year long, and especially as the playoffs neared, there was chatter on whether or not they could finally get through the first round, and their past playoff performances were brought up plenty.

Even without fans in the building, it was clear that the pressure got to this team. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is that this loss will only increase that pressure headed into next regular season as well as the playoffs, and won’t go away until they are finally able to get through the first-round.

1. Matthews & Marner’s Struggles

As mentioned above, despite losing one of their better players in Tavares, this Leafs team had more than enough talent to still beat the Montreal Canadiens. However, their best two players in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner failed to show up. Marner went goalless for a second straight year in the postseason, while Matthews managed to score just once.

This play from two guys who take up more than $22 million of the team’s salary cap is simply unacceptable, and isn’t just a one off. To this point, neither have been able to perform like they are capable of in the postseason, and it has resulted in yet another early playoff exit.

Run It Back

Due to the fact that this loss is still so fresh, many have had knee jerk reactions suggesting that the Leafs blow up their core, with many suggesting Marner should be traded. I don’t believe that is the right call, as despite his postseason struggles to this point in his career, he is still very young and has time to figure it out. If you trade a player of that caliber, it is very unlikely you win the deal. Instead, being patient and making minor tweaks is the way they should go. A perfect example of this is the Washington Capitals, who struggled in the playoffs for many years but were finally able to win the Stanley Cup in 2018.

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