Toronto Maple Leafs squander opportunity to close out series

Montreal Canadiens forward Ryan Suzuki (14) scores the game winning goal past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell (36) in overtime. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Montreal Canadiens forward Ryan Suzuki (14) scores the game winning goal past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell (36) in overtime. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

An absolutely deflating ending to what was a rollercoaster Game 5 for the Toronto Maple Leafs now extends this series with the Montreal Canadiens getting fans in for Game 6.

Going back to the Bell Centre, 2,500 fans will be waiting as the Canadiens will be the first NHL team in Canada to allow spectators at a game in over a year. It’ll provide a bit of a boost considering there hasn’t been any atmosphere at these games.

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It was a dreadful start for the Leafs who allowed the Canadiens to take a 3-0 lead by basically giving them prime scoring chances instead of making Montreal work for their opportunities. Give the Canadiens credit for setting the tone in this game and making the Leafs look lacklustre for two periods.

At the same time, wasting this comeback gives Leafs fans enough justification for their frustration considering this was a prime opportunity to end this series. It also doesn’t help that the Winnipeg Jets are getting some rest and practice after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers.

Now let’s talk about the overtime winner which will be painful for many to talk about but it’s tough to ignore. Alex Galchenyuk played a big part in the Leafs’ comeback and deserves credit for that but when you blindly throw the puck to the point and it leads to the game-winning goal, not many are going to remember what you did earlier in the game.

After the game, Jack Campbell said it wasn’t his best game when talking about allowing three goals in regulation but let’s be honest here, the defensive effort in front of him deserves more criticism. The numerous turnovers in the defensive zone and the amount of chaos in front of the net didn’t make it easy for Campbell in this one.

Now, the team will need to hope for a better start in Game 6 and avoid this series going to a Game 7 and the familiar doubt creep back into the minds of the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Spotlight on Mitch Marner as fans look for him to step up game

Through five games in this series, Mitch Marner has four assists after putting up 20 goals and 67 points in 55 games this season.

In 29 career playoff games, Marner has five goals and 24 points. For a player that made it a big deal to be paid $10.893 million, five goals is definitely not going to cut it.

Right now, the most consistently dangerous Leafs forwards in this series have been William Nylander and Auston Matthews. We have seen on countless occasions where Marner gets an opportunity with a 2-on-1, odd-man rushes and nothing comes from it.

Understandably, it’s easy to pick on Marner because of how much he makes but when you consider what has held the Leafs back from being a contender, it continues to be the play of their superstar players. With John Tavares out, we have seen Nylander take his game to another level but Marner has only one goal to show for his effort in this series and he was fortunate to get credit for the goal.

To see Nylander getting fewer than 20 minutes a game while Marner plays heavy minutes is really tough to comprehend. Sheldon Keefe would be sending a message to Marner that he needs to be more productive.

Of course, Marner will continue to see his top-line minutes and spot on the top power-play unit untouched because of the type of player the Leafs expect him to be. At the same time, Toronto needs to get it through to their top players that they need to be more of a factor on the scoresheet if they want to be successful.

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