TORONTO (May 10) — Would anyone like their palms read on Thursday?
While puttering around on the Internet, just after 3 p.m., I came to an epiphany (above) on my Twitter page. So, I missed the final score. Big deal. 2–1 is the same as 2–0. Or, 9-8. All that matters to nervous hockey fans in this region is that the Leafs are still alive against the Florida Panthers, heading back home for Game 5 on Friday.
Toronto could not become only the fifth team in Stanley Cup history to recover from an 0–3 deficit in a best–of–seven series without prevailing once. That finally happened at FLA Live Arena, thanks to sputtering stars William Nylander and Mitch Marner, who provided the Leafs a much–deserved conquest. If not for Sergei Bobrovsky in the Panthers’ goal, the victory margin would have been much wider, reflecting the territorial edge.
But, again, it doesn’t matter. Any team ahead by a minimum of one goal at the final horn is declared the winner. Toronto was that club on Wednesday. It marked the first time since the 1956 Stanley Cup semifinals that the Leafs prevented a sweep in Game 4. With a 2–0 victory over Detroit at Maple Leaf Gardens, after the Red Wings had won the first three encounters. Detroit eliminated Toronto with a 3–1 triumph in Game 5 at Olympia Stadium.
The Maple Leafs haven’t won two games in a best–of–seven after falling behind 3–0 since the 1942 Stanley Cup final, when they became the first of only four teams to enact a reverse sweep, winning the mug in seven.
The 2023 Florida Panthers do not have Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly and Glenn Hall in their prime, as did the ’56 Red Wings. Therefore, it says here that most bets will be off the table if the Leafs can win another on Friday and extend this playoff round to Game 6 in Sunrise. The Florida players, led by Matthew Tkachuk, were rather jocular in their comments prior to the fourth match… having “so much fun” and feeling “no pressure.” That will not be the case if the Panthers blow a second opportunity to bounce the Maple Leafs. The first order of business for Toronto was to win a game — some way; any way — and create a smidgen of doubt amid the team that pulled off arguably the biggest upset in Stanley Cup history. Though it’s an old and tired saying, it’s true that the Panthers, after shocking the 65–win Bruins, are playing with house money in the second round; and will be for as long as they remain active in the 2023 Cup tournament. The Leafs, by contrast, are carrying a gorilla on their shoulders, one that accompanies them north for another elimination match. Make no mistake, Florida is still very much in command of this Conference semifinal. If the Leafs win again, however, that gorilla becomes a chimp.
Good Call on the score.
I thought Toronto played alright, but I also was impressed with Florida’s determination to come back down 0-2.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Toronto can whip off 3 back-to-back-to-back wins, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if Florida wins the next game.
Mentally, most people crumble when there is so much adversity in front of them. It will be interesting to watch this unfold in real time.
You’re getting better and better, Howard. Let’s hope the spirit of the 1942 boys helps these Leafs.