The Toronto Maple Leafs finally managed to break their nearly two decade long drought of winning a playoff series on Saturday night when they pulled off a 2-1 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6. The Maple Leafs were obviously overjoyed to move on to the next round, but there may not have been a guy who was more happy than head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Keefe hasn’t been with Toronto for as long as some of the team’s players have been, but he knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the Maple Leafs head coaching job back in 2019. After suffering more discouraging playoff defeats early in his tenure, Keefe finally helped Toronto get over the final hump and into the second round of the playoffs, and he sounds quite relieved to say the least.
“It’s been a long time coming. I acknowledged the fact that it’s been a long road for a lot of our guys and they’ve been through a lot of s— to get here. For them, to get this feeling tonight, they deserve it. Playoff hockey is incredible. It was so loud in this building tonight. I don’t know that I was able to speak a word without screaming it as loud as I could to make sure the players could hear me. The intensity and emotion in the building tonight from start to finish was incredible. I look at a year ago, we were in this very building in Game 6, in overtime and we had opportunities to win the game and it didn’t go our way.” – Sheldon Keefe, The Athletic
This is a huge roadblock that the Maple Leafs have finally overcome, but one thing the team has made very clear is that this isn’t the end of their work. There are still three more playoff series to go if they want to lift the Stanley Cup, but with this huge weight off of their shoulders, Toronto may become an increasingly dangerous team throughout the remainder of the postseason.