3) Would the Leafs have finally got past the first round of the playoffs?
For a lot of Leafs fans, the first round of the NHL playoffs has been the bane of their life. Each of the last three seasons have ended with exits at the opening stage of the postseason, with two of them coming in frustrating fashion against the Boston Bruins.
In fact you have to go all the way back to the 2003-04 campaign, for the last time the Leafs actually got past the first round of the playoffs. That season they beat the Ottawa Senators, although even this effort took the full seven games to achieve. (Toronto went on to lose in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the following round.)
As much as it’s essentially a new season once the playoffs begin, who the Leafs could conceivably meet in the opening round would have theoretically impacted their chances of advancing. As of right now, the standings had them facing the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For what it’s worth, this would actually seem like a good matchup for the Leafs, and not just because Steven Stamkos is currently injured and would have been unlikely to return in time for the first round. Toronto had won two of the three regular seasons games up to this point, including an impressive 4-3 victory in Tampa towards the end of February.
The only other potential first round matchup would have been against the Bruins. This would’ve been a long-shot though, with Boston currently holding an eight-point lead at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Of course if it did happen, it would mean another chance for the Leafs to achieve redemption, but you fear it would have yet again ended in heartbreak. The Bruins had won two of the three regular season matchups and you have to imagine they hold the psychological edge over their young opponents.
Overall though, the Leafs would have more than likely faced the Lightning. And as much as facing Andrei Vasilevskiy would have presented its own issues, you could certainly envision them finally overcoming their first round demons.