Can the Toronto Maple Leafs win their first Stanley Cup since 1967 this season?
With the National Hockey League prepared to return this summer for a conclusion to the 2020 season, it’s time to look at the true contenders. The Toronto Maple Leafs should be counted among them.
Toronto is the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs — which has 12 teams this year due to the pandemic causing changes — and will match up with the Columbus Blue Jackets in their qualifying round. It’s a best-of-5 series, with the winner moving on to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are the top four seeds, and have byes from the qualifying round.
Should Toronto advance past Columbus, it would play one of those four. Which one? Depends, as the winners of the qualifying round will play their next opponent after re-seeding.
However, nobody should be lining up to play the Maple Leafs. While they struggled for large potions of the season and underwent a coaching change, the talent is evident. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are one of the best combinations in the league, buoyed by other front-line stars including John Tavares and William Nylander.
In net, Toronto has Frederick Andersen, who has gone through fits of inconsistency this season. However, Andersen has a track record of being better than his 3.03 GAA and .909 save percentage. If he gets hot with the season’s restart, he could propel the Maple Leafs deep into the postseason.
While the Bruins (100 points), Capitals (90 points) and Lightning (92 points) are considered the favorites — and rightfully so — Toronto has enough talent and the right components to be a sleeper in the Stanley Cup playoffs.