The sum of 51 and the Toronto Maple Leafs quest to advance to the second round

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Someone has to say it and I’m sure TSN, Sportsnet and the like will be mentioning this if the Toronto Maple Leafs advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals:

The Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup in 51 years.

I’m actually surprised at this point that we haven’t been seeing or hearing this regularly in the press in one market (Canada) or another (United States). Maybe that reflects what the media thinks of Toronto’s current team state, but at the same time they had a solid season and they are in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs…

I remember 1994 and how often it was repeated in US media — ESPN specifically — that the New York Rangers hadn’t won a Stanley Cup in 54 years. It drove on as the Rangers continued to contend and went on to win the Cup. It’s now a one-Stanley-Cup-in-78-years proclamation to make but you’re not going to hear or read that one in the press (but rag tag bloggers on the other hand… ☻).

Back to Toronto and the state of the Stanley Cup playoffs going forward in 2018, if the Leafs eke by the Boston Bruins, there’s another narrative that will come out in Canada that’s a potential fitting coincidence for the Leafs in that one-in-51 story: There’s a potential of an all-Canada Stanley Cup final. It was an all-Canada final in ’67 as the Leafs defeated the Canadiens. In this instance, it’s the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference who they would be facing in an all-Canada final.

Seeing there are only seven Canadian teams in a league now with 31 teams, it’s not a shock that an all-Canada final is a rare feat. Even with a smaller league in decades gone by since the NHL’s first expansion, it’s a battle for all to contend for the playoffs, let alone the Cup. That said, the last all-Canada final was in 1989 when the Calgary Flames topped Les Habitants de Montréal. The last time any Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was 25 years ago when The Habs beat the Kings.

The odd factoid that can be taken from those two series is that three of four coaches involved (Terry Crisp – Flames 1989, Jacques Demers – Canadiens 1993 and Barry Melrose LA Kings 1993) all had stints as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Not that a major media hub would tell you that factoid.

There’s another, more immediate item that might be crowed if the Leafs advance to the semifinals against Tampa Bay. It’s a battle between a coach and his former player. It’s a Red Wing vs. Red Wing competition as a team assembled by Steve Yzerman faces off against a club coached by Mike Babcock. Yzerman was only coached by Babcock for one season, 2005-06, before #19’s retirement from play.

If these clubs face off during the Eastern Conference Semifinals remains a big if. Toronto has to win their third straight game against a formidable B]s team that has outscored Toronto 21-16 in the series. The opening games — a 5-1 win and the 7-3 domination — set the bar. Yet ever game after game 2 was decided by 2 goals or less. That aspect is what should be remembered going into game 7 at TD Garden.

There are other narratives out there that could creep in and dominate the media and press in the second round (“Vegas, baby…” being the most obvious) but the Leafs and the time without the Chalice of Lord Stanley shouldn’t be a rare talking point in Canadian media. That’s not to dismiss Winnipeg; it’s just the 51 years factor that may be clung to… If they can get past Boston.

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