Monday, May 15, 2023

The Panthers offer a lesson for the Leafs, just not the one they've ever wanted to hear

Let me know if any of this sounds familiar.

There’s a team that’s very skilled, especially up front, and they’re coming off an excellent regular season. The blueline can be shaky and the goaltending is a question mark, but when things are going well they can outscore those problems. Still, they’re fighting the ghosts of an almost impossibly long playoff drought without so much as a series win. Last season they lost to the Lightning in the first round, despite having home ice. But this year, things are different. They finally break through and win a round for the first time in forever, capping it off with a dramatic overtime win on the road in Game 6. The drought is over. It’s different this time.

And then they get knocked aside with ease in round two, losing a short series they were barely ever in. Right back to square one, or worse.

That’s the 2022-23 Maple Leafs, obviously. But it’s also the 2021-22 Panthers.

All of it matches up – every word of it. The similarities are almost eerie. And maybe that’s good news for miserable Maple Leaf fans right now. Because as painful as last year’s exit ended up being for the Panthers, now they’re on to the conference final. Hell, they might even be the Stanley Cup favorites. What a difference a year can make. There is hope. The Panthers are the proof.

So how do you do it?

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