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NHL playoff curse: Can the Toronto Maple Leafs get past the first round?

The Maple Leafs can end the 18-year curse with a victory Saturday against Tampa Bay Lightning.

May 12, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) skates with the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) defends during the first period of game six of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim KlementUSA TODAY Sports

Auston Mathews, the Leafs’ all-star center, was 6 years old the last time his team made it past the first round in the NHL playoffs. With a win Saturday, the Maple Leafs can get to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

They’re going into game seven with the pressure of knowing that they haven’t got past this hurdle in 18 years. This Toronto team blew a 3-1 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021 NHL playoffs that was documented in the Amazon series “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs.” Could history repeat itself? Again? What can be done to break the curse?

The problem is, nobody really knows how the curse started or who started it. There are some theories, but the truth is that the Leafs haven’t made it out of the first round for almost 20 years. The secret to success is to win game seven on Saturday.

Paul Bruno, an NHL analyst, was right when he said the series would go to the seventh game, “because it’s in the Leafs’ bloody DNA.”

But this Toronto Maple Leafs team is different from the previous 17 teams who couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. This team has won the most games in a single season for the franchise and has Auston Mathews, who has scored the most goals in a season in the team’s history. This team came back to win game five after being down 3-2 against the franchise from Florida, even if they did lose game six in overtime.

Many fans think this is the team that can at least make it to the second round, if not win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967. A long-time Maple Leafs fan said: “I have hope, you have to learn how to lose. Know how bad it feels and experience the intangibles of what it takes to be a champion.”

On Saturday night they have an opportunity to break an 18-year-old curse on home ice.


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