TORONTO | There is not always a poetic way to describe the issue. Auston Matthews found the right words in the minutes after the Maple Leafs lost 4-3 in overtime to the Lightning in Game 6.
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"You have to forget the past, you can't change anything. We have to think about our next game. We have to put our balls on the table. »
With the last little sentence, Matthews talked about the importance of showing courage, of playing with immense determination.
"It's the perfect way to describe Game 7," head coach Sheldon Keefe said when reminded of his star player's comments. We will have to place all our chips in the center of the table. You can't keep anything. The stakes are high. We will play against a very good team. But we believe in our group, like the Lightning believe in their group. It practically makes sense to see a seventh game to end this streak. We are in good spirits and looking forward to playing in front of our fans. »
The right attitude
Prior to the team's departure from Tampa to Toronto, Mark Giordano also corroborated Matthews' claims. The 38-year-old defender cracked a small smile upon learning of his teammate's speech.
"Yes, we have to have that mentality," Giordano replied. We have to believe in ourselves. We have to believe that we can beat everyone. This is how Auston wanted to talk. After a loss in overtime, it can be difficult the next day. It hurts to lose this way. But we will wake up on Saturday with a great challenge ahead of us. There will be a great atmosphere for this meeting in Toronto. »
"I like the attitude of our guys, our big names lead the team," continued the former Flames and Kraken captain. Johnny (Tavares) led the attack in the last game. We played a good game, we had our chances in extra time. Now this is a game where we can survive or die. We have to believe it. »
The Leafs will look to finally expel their demons in the first round of the playoffs by playing a seventh game against the champions of the last two years of the Stanley Cup, the Lightning.
Last year, the Maple Leafs squandered three chances to eliminate Carey Price and the Canadian in the first round of the playoffs.
Against the Lightning, they have already burned a cartridge.
Inside the Maple Leafs locker room, players aren't afraid to recreate the same scenario of the past few years with another loss in the first round of the playoffs. It must be remembered, but the team with the maple leaf has not won a single series since the spring of 2004 when it eliminated the Ottawa Senators in seven games.
"We have a different lineup," defender Justin Holl said. We also believe in our group. I said it, but we expected a tight series. It comes down to the team that performs the best. I like our group, we have a good team. We showed our competitive spirit in this series. »
If there is encouraging news for the Leafs, the star players are having success against the Lightning, unlike last year against the CH.
After six games, Matthews sits atop his team in scoring with eight points (4 goals, 4 assists). Number 34 is ahead of Mitchell Marner (2 goals, 5 assists), William Nylander (3 goals, 4 assists) and John Tavares (3 goals, 3 assists).
"They're leaders for us, they make plays, they generate chances," Giordano said of Matthews, Marner and Tavares. Often results are based on offensive numbers. Matthews and Johnny are winning faceoffs. Our big names are also good defensively. »
In Game 6, Matthews scored a goal, but he also got his shoulders out with nine hits and a 66% (19-for-29) pass rate in the face-off circle.