Can the Leafs overcome a 3-0 series deficit? Only 4 teams ever have
Published Monday, May 8, 2023 11:04AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 8, 2023 11:04AM EDT
The Maple Leafs face an uphill battle following their Game 3 overtime loss to the Panthers Sunday night.
On the wrong end of a 3-0 series deficit, the Leafs are the 202nd team in NHL history that needs to win four games in a row to advance.
Only four teams have ever done that.
That small group includes the Leafs of 1942 -- which pulled off the comeback against the Detroit Red Wings in the finals and won the Stanley Cup that year.
More recently, the Los Angeles Kings pulled off the feat against the San Jose Sharks in a first-round series in 2014. Before that, Philadelphia turned the tables on Boston in 2010 and the New York Islanders beat the Penguins in a quarterfinal series in 1975.
The Leafs’ Sunday night 3-2 loss marked the first time since late October that they dropped three games in a row.
Sam Reinhart scored at the 3:02 mark of overtime to give the Panthers the commanding series lead.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke following the loss and acknowledged that, at this point, there is no margin for error.
“[The Panthers] are in full control. It’s on us now to make it uncomfortable for them and not go away,” he said.
“[I] still have a tremendous amount of belief in our group…Can we win three games in a row and make it real hard [for them] and earn ourselves a game 7? That would be the goal for us, but obviously, that starts with one win.”
The Leafs will take on the Panthers in a win-or-go-home Game 4 on Wednesday.
‘THEY’VE GOT TO START TRADING’
At least one local sports analyst has taken a less optimistic view of the Leafs’ playoff ambitions, suggesting Monday that a team blow up may be necessary to reset.
“This is over. They’ve got to start trading. They’ve got to look at all of them: [Auston] Matthews, [Mitch] Marner, [John] Tavares, [and William] Nylander,” TSN radio host Matt Cauz told Newstalk 1010’s Moore in the Morning Monday.
While Cauz noted that the Leafs’ core four are all “incredible players,” he said there’s something about the combination that doesn’t work in the playoffs.
“I feel the [playoff] sample size is large enough that to call for major changes is no longer a hot take or hyperbole. It is the only logical and rational choice,” Cauz said.
Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas resisted blowing up the core following a first-round exit in May of last year while defending the squad’s playoff potential at the time. With his contract set to expire at the end of this season, it appears the Buds are more vulnerable to a shakeup if they get swept Wednesday.