On Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs won a had-to-win game to stay alive in the Round 2 series against the Florida Panthers. Maple Leafs’ fans are hoping against hope that their team can come back. Fans are noting the possibility by advocating for one step (one game) at a time.
That said, there are other hockey critics have also been evaluating the Maple Leafs’ playoff performance. Many have a very different perspective on what they see looking ahead on the Maple Leafs’ horizon.
In a recent conversation (see below), hockey insiders Scott Ferrall and Joe Raineri discuss the Panthers and the Maple Leafs Round 2 series. They have a very different take on the series than most Maple Leafs’ fans.
Ferrall and Raineri Believe the Maple Leafs Are “Overhyped”
As noted in the video above, in the midst of the intense playoff battle between the Maple Leafs and the Panthers, opinions are running hot. Some fans and at least two hockey analysts believe that the Maple Leafs are overhyped and that their chances of advancing in the series are slim.
Even after a hard-earned victory, these two analysts believe it was a one-off. Although the thrilling 2-1 Game 4 win over the Panthers lifted the hopes of Maple Leafs’ fans and kept the team’s playoff hopes alive, both Ferrall and Raineri believe it won’t matter for anything.
They admit that goals scored by William Nylander and Mitch Marner were instrumental in gaining the win, but they note that it was just a single game. The Maple Leafs are still trailing in the series; and, really, not much has changed.
Reality Check for the Maple Leafs
Both Ferrall and Raineri argue that the hype surrounding Maple Leafs’ star players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner isn’t justified. The playoffs are a different beast, and Toronto has shown they know how to lose during the playoffs. In fact, this series demonstrates just one more set of struggles – just like in the past. They believe the series against the Panthers should be a reality check for the Maple Leafs because it once again highlights the challenges the team faces.
The Panthers Are Posing Matchup Problems
The Maple Leafs’ matchup against the Panthers has proven to be a tough one. The Panthers’ style of play has posed significant challenges for Toronto, and their strong defensive efforts have limited the Maple Leafs’ offensive production.
Ferrall and Raineri note that playoff success often comes down to the matchups, and the Panthers have done a good job exploiting the Maple Leafs’ weaknesses effectively.
The Maple Leafs Are Overmatched in the Crease
Ferrall and Raineri note that the Panthers have the better goaltending – by far. Although they acknowledge that Joseph Woll’s Game 4 performance was commendable, he’s only a 24-year-old rookie. When it comes to goalie play, the Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky has been solid between the pipes. He’s made it tough for the Maple Leafs to score consistently.
Because goaltending also is also a significant determination of the outcome of any playoff series, the Panthers’ clear advantage in the net makes them unbeatable.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs and the Panthers?
In looking ahead, the series now heads back to Toronto for Game 5. Once again, the Maple Leafs find themselves in a must-win situation. According to Ferrall and Raineri, the Panthers’ level of toughness will again allow them to exploit a vulnerable Maple Leafs’ team.
However, the twosome admits that the Maple Leafs have shown some resilience and could win one more game. However, they note that the team can’t win more than one more game – so say Ferrall and Raineri.
What If You’re a Maple Leafs’ Fan Listening to This?
Obviously, Maple Leafs’ fans know the team is behind the 8-Ball. Their chances to win this series are – given the history of the NHL playoffs – only about 10%. Clearly, the team has a tough road ahead.
Ferrall and Raineri also have a good point in that the series against the Panthers has exposed weaknesses in the Maple Leafs’ game. If the team’s core does not show up, perhaps they also have a point about the team being overhyped.
However, in the playoffs, anything can happen. For sure, the Maple Leafs have a chance to prove their critics wrong. I shared this video because I hope they play well enough to make critics like Ferrall and Raineri eat their words.
The battle continues in Game 5. It will be interesting for Toronto fans to see how their team responds. Can they stage a comeback in this hard-fought series? Friday night we get the answer.
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