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A Leaf Grows In Toronto

For a moment there, it looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to pull it off.

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Auston Matthews: making it happen against the Caps…almost

When Matthews scored the goal that briefly gave the Leafs the lead against the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of their First Round series, Toronto’s faithful could have been forgiven if they started thinking destiny was on their side. They had the lead, were less than a period away from a Game 7, and putting it over on the one team in the league that is known for, shall we say, gripping the sticks a little too tight in this sort of situation.

Alas, it didn’t work out that way–but Leafs fans should definitely be encouraged. Everything is finally pointing upward for the storied but beleaguered franchise.

The biggest takeaway from Sunday night’s game is not just that the Leafs took the lead before they ultimately succumbed to Washington–it’s who gave them that lead. The way teams on the rise actually achieve their rise is by their star players coming through in the biggest moments.

Matthews’ goal qualified by that standard, in a big way. If anyone else had joined the Leafs’ young star at the head of the parade and scored a second goal, things might have ended much differently, both on Sunday and in the Game 7 that was not to be. Only Frederik Anderson, in holding down the Caps’ potent offense, really lived up to the necessary standard for a team to win a playoff series. The rest of Toronto’s skaters need to make a major step up for future success to be assured. Nevertheless, they have the foundation in place: a star who will come up big when bigness is needed. And this is just the end of his first season; there’s so much room for growth there.

So at last, for the first time a decade, it looks like Toronto is finally reaching the other side of their desert. They have not yet made it to the promised land, but they have at least moved into better neighborhood than where they’ve been living these many years. And that’s an interesting development for fans all around the Land of Hockey. Stay tuned, Ontario.

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