Maple Leafs focused, confident to change the story of the Stanley Cup match

Auston MatthewsAnd the Mitchell MarnerAnd the William Nylander And the Morgan Riley Returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs this season after another disappointing loss in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I can’t wait to write a new story with a happy ending.

“I think it’s a testament to the confidence in our group, and I think it’s an opportunity for us to change the narrative,” Riley said on the NHL North American Player Media tour at the Lifeguard Arena on Friday when asked about management keeping their core together.

“Ultimately, we’re not happy with the way qualifying has gone for us in recent years. Last year, we talked about an opportunity to take revenge and prove we could get past it, and we didn’t, so I think we’ll keep saying that.

“We’re very focused, we’re very confident in our group, and now we have to deliver results. And I think whenever you get the chance to get redemption with a group that broke their hearts last year, it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

The Maple Leafs broke records for wins (54) and points (115) last season, to finish fourth in the NHL. Matthews became the first goalscorer with 60 goals and a Hart Cup winner, which goes to the NHL’s Most Valuable Player as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

But they finished second in the highly competitive Atlantic League against the Florida Panthers, who won the Presidents Cup as the best regular-season team in the NHL, and their reward was a game with the two-time Stanley Cup champions at the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference’s first session. They lost in seven matches.

This was the sixth consecutive year they had lost in the opening round of the playoffs and the fifth consecutive year they had lost a game 5 or 7 in a row. Part of each of these losses. center John Tavares He joined them as a free agent in 2018-19.

Some fans and the media have called for changes.

“The things that are on the outside are just that: on the outside,” Marner said at a charity event in London, Ontario, on Thursday. “We can feel it, but all that stuff is left to management. You can’t change the past. They obviously trust us, we trust them. We have a great squad this year, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Matthews and Riley pointed to the long list of teams that had endured years of play-off disappointments before winning the cup.

Most recently, Washington Capitals failed to advance after the second round in nine playoffs from 2008-2017, then won the cup in 2018.

The lightning lost in the cup final in 2015, lost in the Eastern Conference final in 2016, did not qualify for the playoffs in 2017, lost in the conference final in 2018, and swept it in the first round in 2019, then won the cup. In 2020 and 2021.

The Colorado Avalanche lost in the first round in 2018, lost in the second round in 2019, 2020 and 2021, then won the cup last season.

“Everyone’s journey is kind of different,” Matthews said on Friday’s media tour of the players. “…We believe in our group, we have a lot of motivation, we are obviously falling short, it’s kind of continuing that, it is fueling the fire. But we think we are really there and that we are close and that we are one of the best teams in the league and we are going to be very competitive.”

The support team has changed, most notably in the network. Leaving includes goalkeepers Jack Campbell And the Peter Marazek and the attackers Ilya MikheevAnd the Ondrej Casey and Jason Spiza. The arrivals include goalkeepers Matt Murray And the Ilya Samsonovdefensemen Jordi Ben And the Victor Mitteand the attackers Erinkrock Street And the Nicholas Ob-Kobel.

The new faces will have to adapt and develop chemistry.

“There will be ups and downs, but I think it will just limit those as much as possible and put yourself in the best position come qualifying time,” Matthews said. “everybody [says] The regular season doesn’t matter. Important.”

After qualifying for the playoffs and finishing the tournament as high as possible in the standings, the most important thing is to “build good habits and build that consistency throughout the year, so when it’s playoff time, you’ve been through hardships, you’ve been through ups and downs, and nothing really shakes you,” Matthews said. truly “.

This is the bottom line of the Big Four:

“You have to put yourself in a position to succeed, and then you just have to start winning important matches,” Riley said. “We’ve been in countless positions to win a game of 7 or a game of 5. You just have to do it. …

“In general, I think we have to have the mentality that when that time comes we are ready. We have experience in that first round. We have experience in those big matches. And now we have to change the narrative.” staff writer Mike Zizberger contributed to this report

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