toronto maple leafs playoffs history

A painful recap of the Toronto Maple Leafs' recent playoff choking streak

The Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely crushed this year, recording franchise bests in wins and points. Their reward in the playoffs? The two-time Stanley Cup defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sure, the Leafs got off to a hot start, taking game one of their first-round 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs series, but the team is still widely considered cursed and even early successes haven't blacked out long-time fans' disappointed memories.

The last time the Leafs went deep in the playoffs was in 2003-04 when the team lost in Conference Semifinals to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. That was a very long time ago. Facebook and YouTube didn't exist, and the Leafs squad was led by names like Mats Sundin and Alexander Mogilny.

Since then, the Leafs have qualified for the playoffs six times, and have been snuffed out early in their campaign each and every chance, often in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable.

So while everyone is high on this Game 1 win, here's a cruel reminder of the failures — some more catastrophic than others — that will have fans holding their breath no matter the outcome of the first few games.

2012-13: Boston Bruins

What was supposed to be a triumphant Leafs return to contention after a seven-season playoff drought will go down as one of the most miserable failures in Toronto sports history, one most fans have been unable to forget after almost a decade.

After falling 3-1 in their first-round series against the Boston Bruins, the Leafs rallied to force a game six and then seven, where they would blow a 4-1 lead in the third period and then fall in overtime, ending the series and gutting an entire city in the process.

2016-17: Washington Capitals

In a hard-fought series versus the league-best Washington Capitals, the Leafs would fall in six games, five of which were decided in overtime. This included game six, where one goal was the difference in forcing a winner-takes-all game seven and the Leafs going home empty-handed again.

The Leafs lost in the first round again, but hey, at least the city got a new minor celebrity in Dart Guy out of the series.

2017-18: Boston Bruins

Another Bruins series and another game seven loss brought the familiar feeling of heartbreak to Leafs fans in the 2018 playoffs. It had only been five years since the devastating collapse of '13, but this defeat tore open emotional wounds that had not yet healed.

Unfortunately, it would not be the last time the Leafs had to face the Bruins in a first-round series in the 2010s.

2018-19: Boston Bruins

The Leafs had a chance to get vengeance for past upsets with their third first-round meeting versus the Bruins of the 2010s. In what was starting to feel like a pattern, the Leafs once again fell to the Bruins in seven games in a back-and-forth series.

Thankfully, it was the last meeting of the two teams that decade, though even as the 2010s drew to a close, failure would chase the Leafs into the 2020s.

2019-20: Columbus Blue Jackets

The pandemic year was going to have an asterisk on it no matter the outcome for the Leafs. The playoff format was a bit wonky that year, with the Leafs facing the Blue Jackets in a best-of-five Qualifying Round.

In a rare peculiarity of the times, the Leafs technically made the playoffs but would lose in five games, failing to qualify for the first round.

2020-21: Montreal Canadiens

And that brings us to the freshest of wounds, and perhaps the most convincing argument that there's a curse at play here. The 2021 playoffs were supposed to be it for the Leafs, they even had that "All or Nothing" documentary made.

Well, turns out they got nothing instead of all, the heavily-favoured Leafs blowing a 3-1 series lead to their arch rivals with three consecutive losses to lose in seven games.

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