Leafs are down but not out of tight series against Capitals

What a game. What a series.

In the end, the Leafs outshot the Capitals 38-36, and 213-211 over in the series, and won an astounding 64 percent of faceoffs in game six. He got just that.

But this time, after Leafs president Brendan Shanahan finished with his broom and then a tank job produced No. 1 overall draft pick Auston Matthews and a couple of other terrible seasons resulted in high draft picks like Mitch Marner, William Nylander along with trades and free-agent signings that netted the likes of Frederik Andersen, Nikita Zaitsev, Zach Hyman and Kasperi Kapanen, the hopes for the future are legitimate. "But when we got in here and looked at one another (after the game), there's a lot of pride that can be taken". To Washington's vast credit, it still wasn't quite enough. The difference last night came after the Leafs took a 1-0 lead. He couldn't get his head turned in time to watch it cross the goal line. That funneled into Friday, where Matthews evened the score 1-1 with his second-period goal.

"I think it does", defenseman Matt Niskanen said of whether the Maple Leafs series prepared the Capitals to face the Penguins. It goes down as a six-game out in the first round but it felt longer and more gruelling with all of the bonus periods and one-goal games.

That Toronto's band of youngsters gave the Presidents' Trophy victor all it could handle confirmed they are well ahead of their projected development curve. Williams made his move and tried to tuck the puck in at the side of the net, only for the down-and-out Andersen to make a huge pad save.

After the game, Capitals owner Ted Leonisis came into the locker room and gave Johansson an air-kiss on the cheek, Johansson's reward for coming through in the only game of the series in which no goals were scored in the first two periods. He led this team to (and in) the playoffs as a 19-year-old. "I've never seen anything like it".

The play of the young Maple Leafs surprised everyone, even though maybe it shouldn't.

The Senators won three games of the series in overtime on the way to capturing only their second playoff series triumph in a decade. Schmidt saw as much if not more ice time as trade-deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk, and with skating expected to be at a premium again versus Pittsburgh, the 25-year-old is a candidate to keep playing.

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All in all, the article, like so many about the extremely private first lady, trots out the same familiar sources. Meanwhile, parents of students at Barron's school in NY are getting upset about the ongoing security issues.

Craig Custance: If they can upgrade that defense, everything is there for the Maple Leafs to catapult to the top of the Eastern Conference next season. The debate's officially over, if it wasn't already: Gardiner is part of the solution, not the problem.

Leaf players looked to Rielly for the inside scoop on Matthews. They wouldn't or couldn't leave - not on this overtime night, not in this playoff series ending with the Washington Capitals, not quickly, not yet, anyhow.

After finishing dead last in the league a year ago, the playoffs were not in sight for Toronto going into the 2016-17 season.

It all provided the Capitals with a slightly distorted look at what's next, something they were anticipating long before the Leafs gave them a first-round scare.

The loss ends a memorable season for the Leafs.

The Maple Leafs have become a perennial Stanley Cup playoff contender. The shootout record will rebound (ultimately, it can't get much worse).

"We knew it wasn't going to come easy, it hasn't come easy for us", Boston forward David Backes said. Perhaps they will be as ubiquitous in the playoffs as the Red Wings' Zetterberg, who missed the post-season for the first time in his career this year. While Andersen sustained an injury before the season, he stayed healthy enough to start 66 games. It's just a matter of time before the Leafs are mentioned in the same breath. They also won't be surprising anyone anymore in 2017-18.

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