No one tweeted about a Florida Panthers playoff series win before last night, when Carter Verhaeghe, off a pass from Claude Giroux (trade deadline acquisition and carrier of tons of indirect Philadelphia Panthers fans), led Florida to a 4-3 overtime win over the Capitals and a 4-2 series win.
The Panthers’ victory meant a couple of things. First, while we’re still poised for a dream hockey weekend, we’re still one game away from tying 1992 record of half a dozen games 7 in a round. It also means the Panthers no longer have the NHL’s longest drought between winning postseason series. Now that Florida is out of the game after 24 years, the new team that has gone the longest without a handshake line that wasn’t followed by trudging into the offseason is … with a gap of 16 years since its last win in a series…I already know from the headline, but take a minute and pretend you don’t for the drama…
TORONTO MAPLE LEAVES.
Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose last playoff series victory was so long ago, came in a year the Ottawa Senators were in the playoffs, 2004. In the Eastern semifinals that followed, the home team between the Leafs and Flyers won each of the first five games, then Philly concluded the series in overtime in Game 6.
Toronto didn’t even make the playoffs until after a couple of lockouts, it finally returned to the Stanley Cup tournament in the abbreviated 2013 season, where it gamely rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, took a lead 4-1 in goals. by Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri at the start of the third period, and you know the rest.
Then the Leafs endured a rebuild, stuffed Auston Matthews into a wholly unrigged lottery draw, and returned to the playoffs in 2017, where they put in a strong showing against the Capitals, dropping in six games in a series where all but Game 4 (a 5-4 Washington win) went into overtime.
2018: Came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Bruins again, only squandering a 4-3 lead in Game 7 this time, losing 7-4.
2019: Managed not to get into a 3-1 hole against the Bruins, instead taking a 3-2 series lead before losing Game 6 at home and getting waxed, 5-1, in the decider in Boston.
2020: In the bubble, in Toronto, he lost a best-of-five series to the Blue Jackets, who had won 33 of 70 games during the regular season.
2021: Took a 3-1 series lead against a Canadiens team that won 24 of 56 regular-season games, and against which the Leafs had gone 7-2-1 in the regular season. Although Games 5 and 6 went to overtime, Toronto didn’t lead in either, and it sure as hell didn’t lead in Game 7 3-1, when William Nylander only scored after Montreal had already netted a goal. empty to ice. the series.
And now here we are, with the Florida Panthers advancing and the Leafs facing the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in a series that Toronto has led, 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. What could go wrong?
There is another part of the story here. The Maple Leafs haven’t beaten the defending champions since defeating the Habs in six games in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final. So all that stuff about the Leafs’ first-round misery? Either we add it up tonight, or they will finally win the Cup.
The Bucks can’t finish off the Celtics; Warriors send Memphis fishing
In the NBA, after not having a single first-round series, all of their conference semifinals went to Game 6, and on Friday night, like Thursday, one title contender moved on while another failed to seal the deal. .
The defending champion Bucks need to return to Boston for a decider after blowing their chance to return to the conference finals in a 108-95 home loss. The other home team on the night held serve and wound up beating the top seed, not that Golden State was really the underdog against Memphis, though. The Grizzlies gave everything they had without Ja Morantbut dropped a 110-96 verdict as the vulnerable but still elite three-time champions walked away with a 32-19 fourth quarter.
That still makes for a sports weekend with seven Game 7s, so buckle up, because it’s going to be a lot of fun and, in fact, a record in its own rightalbeit one that feels much more made up.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas…