The Toronto Maple Leafs are well aware of their unflattering history. The longest current Stanley Cup drought among teams that have won it at least once. No playoff series victories in almost a decade. A 1-8 record in series when falling behind 3-1 and not overcoming such a deficit in roughly 71 years.
Facing a Bruins team that is no stranger to Game 7 makes Monday night’s win-or-go-home matchup in Boston all the more interesting.
Toronto entered this Eastern Conference quarterfinal as the underdog in its first postseason appearance since 2004, when it defeated Ottawa in seven games before falling to Philadelphia in six in the second round.
The Leafs promptly fell behind 3-1 in this series and appeared to be headed towards a quick exit before taking Game 5 on the road, 2-1, and winning by the same score at home on Sunday.
Now, Toronto has a chance to overturn a 3-1 deficit for the first time since beating Detroit in the 1942 Stanley Cup finals after losing the first three games.
“We know we’re going to go into a hostile building in Boston,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “We know the passion in their market and their fans. We’ve been there already, we know what we’re heading to and we just have to make sure that we play the game to a higher level than we did (Sunday). Because we know they will.”
Captain Dion Phaneuf and former Bruin Phil Kessel scored in the third period Sunday while James Reimer made 29 saves for Toronto, which earned its first home playoff win over Boston since March 31, 1959.
Kessel has three goals in the series after posting that same amount in his first 22 career games against the Original Six rival.
“He’s a goal-scorer and he knows how to find and create space,” Carlyle said. “When he comes late on the ice, you can see the intimidation he has with his speed and skills. We have asked him to play more stop-and-go hockey instead of a specifically a rush game.”
The Maple Leafs are 12-9 all-time in Game 7s while Boston is 12-11. Monday will mark the sixth straight postseason the Bruins have played in a seventh game, going 3-4 in that span, and each victory came during their 2011 run to the Stanley Cup.
Milan Lucic scored his first goal in the series with 46 seconds remaining Sunday to prevent the shutout. Boston has been held scoreless through at least the first 50 minutes in each of the last two contests.
“I didn’t think (puck management) was very good and as I said to our players, we’ve been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team all year, and that’s what you’re seeing right now,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think it’s important for us to bring the good Bruins team to the table for Game 7.”
Prior to losing Game 2 and Game 5, the Bruins had won six straight home matchups with Toronto. Game 1 marked their only playoff victory in Boston in their last six tries, though.
“They’re a good team,” said forward Patrice Bergeron whose only point in the series was a goal in Game 4. “We never said it was going to be an easy series. Here we are now and it’s all about one game. Whatever happened in the first six games doesn’t matter. It’s all about (Monday) now.”
It’s unclear if Toronto center Tyler Bozak who scored a short-handed goal in Game 5, will be able to play Monday after being a late scratch with an undisclosed injury for Game 6 despite participating in warmups.
“We’ll continue to reassess and re-evaluate and see what (Monday) brings,” Carlyle said.
The Bruins will not fly back to Boston until Monday morning after their plane was grounded Sunday night due to a malfunction.