Maple Leafs targeted, confident in changing Stanley Cup Playoff narrative

Austin Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly return to the Toronto Maple Leafs this season after one other disappointing loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, keen to write down a brand new story with a cheerful ending.

“I feel it is a proof of confidence in our group, and I feel it is a possibility for us to vary the narrative,” Rielly stated on the NHL North American Player Media Tour at Lifeguard Arena on Friday when requested about administration conserving the core collectively.

“Ultimately, we’re not proud of how the playoffs have gone for us in current years. Last yr, we talked about a possibility to get revenge and to show we will recover from it, and we did not, so I feel we ‘re going to proceed to say that.

“We’re extraordinarily targeted, we’re extraordinarily confident with our group, and it is on us now to get outcomes. And I feel at any time when you’ve an opportunity to get redemption with a gaggle that had their hearts damaged final yr, it is a cool alternative.”

The Maple Leafs blew away workforce data for wins (54) and factors (115) final season, ending fourth in the NHL. Matthews grew to become their first 60-goal scorer and gained the Hart Trophy, which matches to the NHL’s most beneficial participant as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

But they completed second in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division to the Florida Panthers, who gained the Presidents’ Trophy because the NHL’s high regular-season workforce, and their reward was a matchup with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round. They misplaced in seven video games.

It was the sixth straight yr they misplaced in the opening spherical of the playoffs and the fifth straight yr they misplaced a winner-take-all Game 5 or Game 7. The Big Four — Rielly on protection, the others at ahead — have been a part of every of these losses. Center John Tavares joined them as a free agent in 2018-19.

Some followers and media have known as for adjustments.

“The stuff on the surface is simply that: on the surface,” Marner stated at a charity occasion in London, Ontario, on Thursday. “We can really feel it, however all that stuff is left to administration. You cannot change the previous. Obviously, they’ve belief in us, and now we have belief in them. We have a fantastic workforce this yr, and we will’ t wait to get going.”

Matthews and Rielly pointed to the lengthy checklist of groups that suffered years of playoff disappointments earlier than profitable the Cup.

Most not too long ago, the Washington Capitals didn’t advance previous the second spherical in 9 playoff appearances from 2008-2017, then gained the Cup in 2018.

The Lightning misplaced in the Cup Final in 2015, misplaced in the Eastern Conference Final in 2016, did not qualify for the playoffs in 2017, misplaced in the convention ultimate in 2018 and received swept in the primary spherical in 2019, then gained the Cup in 2020 and 2021.

The Colorado Avalanche misplaced in the primary spherical in 2018, misplaced in the second spherical in 2019, 2020 and 2021, then gained the Cup final season.

“Everybody’s journey’s sort of totally different,” Matthews stated on the participant media tour on Friday. “… We consider in our group, and we have been extraordinarily motivated, and clearly falling quick, it simply sort of continues that, fuels the fireplace. But we consider that we’re proper there and that we’re shut and that we “re among the finest groups in the League and we will be very aggressive.”

The supporting forged has modified, most notably in web. The departures embody goalies Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek and forwards Ilya Mikheyev, Ondrej Kase and Jason Spezza. The arrivals embody goalies Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonovdefensemen Jordie Benn and Victor Meteand forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

The new faces must get acclimated and develop chemistry.

“There’s going to be ups and downs, however I feel it is simply limiting these as a lot as potential and placing your self in the very best place come playoff time,” Matthews stated. “Everybody [says] the common season would not matter. It would not matter.”

After qualifying for the playoffs and ending as excessive as potential in the standings, Matthews stated, what issues most is to “construct good habits and construct that consistency all year long, so when it comes playoff time, you’ve got gone by adversity, you ‘ve gone by ups and downs, and nothing actually shakes you.”

This is the underside line for the Big Four:

“You’ve received to place your self in a place to achieve success, and you then’ve simply received to start out profitable vital video games,” Rielly stated. “We’ve been in numerous positions to win a Game 7 or a Game 5. You’ve simply received to do it. …

“Overall, I feel that now we have to have the mindset that when that point comes, we’re prepared. We’ve had expertise in that first spherical. We’ve had expertise in these massive video games. It’s on us now to vary the narrative.” employees author Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report


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