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Home exits all too familiar for Maple Leafs


The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost six straight playoff games on home ice entering their must-win Game 6 against the Boston Bruins at the Scotiabank Arena.

Home-ice advantage has failed to benefit the Maple Leafs in this year's first-round series, with the Bruins taking Games 3 and 4 on the road by a combined score of 7-3.

Toronto's last playoff win on home ice came in the first round last year against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After dropping Game 1 of the series 7-3, the Maple Leafs bounced back with a 7-2 victory in Game 2 and eventually earned their first series win since 2004 on the road in Game 6 after dropping Game 5 on home ice.

That offensive explosion against the Lightning was the last time Toronto scored more than three goals in a playoff game – a 14-game stretch. 

After being swept in the opening two games on home ice in their second-round series against the Florida Panthers, the Maple Leafs were eliminated in Game 5 in Toronto last spring, marking the fourth straight year their season ended on home ice. In 2022, the Maple Leafs lost 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 at home. 

The Maple Leafs had two chances to close out the Montreal Canadiens at home in 2021, dropping Game 5 4-3 in overtime and losing Game 7 3-1 as the Canadiens completed the comeback from down 3-1 in the series.

With all five of their games against the Columbus Blue Jackets being played at the Scotiabank Arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maple Leafs went 1-2 with home-ice advantage. The Blue Jackets took the play-in round series with a 3-0 victory over Toronto in Game 5.

Since Sheldon Keefe took over as head coach in 2019-20, the Maple Leafs are 5-14 with home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Three of those wins came without fans in the Scotiabank Arena due to the pandemic. 

"Quite honestly, it means nothing," Keefe said of home-ice advantage for Game 6. "We got to play the exact same way wherever it is. I mean we're happy to ... play in front of them, but we have to approach the game no different than we have on the road in terms of our plan and what's required. We don't have to impress anyone. We don't have to do this or that. We need to win the hockey game."

The Leafs earned a 3-2 win over Boston in Game 2 and scratched out a 2-1 overtime on Tuesday. Despite losing 5-1 to the Bruins in Game 1 at TD Gardens, Keefe praised Toronto’s road effort, comparing it to their 4-2 Game 3 loss and 3-1 Game 4 defeats at home.

"We just have to accept and recognize there's only one way for us to win and play in the playoffs and that's how we played last night," Keefe said Wednesday. "The games that we played in Boston, Games 1 and 2, were good examples of how we need to play. I thought it was more complete from start to finish in the game last night, but I've liked our games on the road."

After taking both games in Toronto so far in the series, the Bruins are feeling confident heading into Game 6. 

"We played two really good games there," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "There's a little bit of the mentality of we have to bring our own juice and we have to rely on each other. It's kind of like a 'Band of Brothers' mentality, which I think is something I think our team thrives on." 

Should the Maple Leafs flip the script and take Game 6, Game 7 is scheduled for Saturday in Boston, where the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the postseason in 2018 and 2019.