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Leafs Nation ready to lay it all on the line again in Game 7

'You have to forget the past,' says born-and-raised Toronto Maple Leafs fan
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From car flags to jerseys and everything in between that you can put a logo on, it's not hard to find Toronto Maple Leafs fans in this city. 

With a winner-takes-all Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in Beantown tonight, local Leafs fans say they are confident heading into the big game, which will see the winner advance to the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs.

With the two teams being so evenly matched, there's little surprise that Toronto and Boston would go to seven games, as his been the case in recent years. 

Toronto and Boston have shared history, with the Bruins ousting the Leafs on two occasions, including 2013 and last year, with come-from-behind victories in both instances.

Both of those games were in Boston, just like it will be Tuesday night. 

In 2013, the heart-breaking details saw the Bruins score three times in the final 11 minutes to knot the game at 4-4 before Boston's dramatic overtime victory thanks to Patrice Bergeron.

Last season, the Bruins skated to a 7-4 win in Game 7 on the strength of four goals in the third period. 

But Leafs fans say that is all history and they're hoping for a different outcome this year.

"I hope to see the Leafs win this one," lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan Jack Sutton told BarrieToday when we popped into the Lockeroom Sports Bar and Grill on Cundles Road East. 

Sutton's hockey-loving days stretch back to the Original Six prior to 1967 ("I'm older than dirt," he jokes) and he suspects the Leafs can pull this one out and defeat their nemesis which is the Boston Bruins. 

As has been the case all season and into the playoffs, Sutton expects a big game from Toronto goalie Frederik Anderson, who has been dynamic through six games so far. 

"Andersen will have to play great, like he has all series," said Sutton, adding he hopes the officiating is also fair for both teams, something which has been suspect for both fanbases up to this point. "And in all of the games they've won, they've controlled the puck most of the time.

"Overall, we just have to worry about what we're doing as a team and give Andersen some support," Sutton added. "We can't give them that much."

That means less mental mistakes, "it's as simple as that," Sutton said. 

Liam Farrell, shift lead at Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in downtown Barrie, says he's a "born and raised Leafs fan."

"I want to say this is their year, because they are playing so well," Farrell said, adding the young Leafs lineup, led by the likes of sniper Auston Matthews and shifty Mitch Marner, has been able to keep the games low-scoring affairs. "I think we have it, but we have to keep pushing."

The Leafs had a chance to slay their giant on Easter Sunday, but the Bruins staved off elimination with a 4-2 victory in Toronto, sending the series back to Boston for the deciding game. 

The Maple Leafs haven't seen the second round of the playoffs since 2004. 

"You have to forget the past," Farrell said. "Going in, the Leafs know we can play well, but the Bruins are also going to be thirsty for it. They're coming off a win, so they're not going to be in the same head space (as they would be following a loss).

"But we're also going to have a sour taste in our mouths," he added. 

The last time the Leafs eliminated the Bruins in the playoffs was in 1959, but fell to the Montreal Canadiens in the Cup final. They Leafs also haven't won a Cup since 1967, a date emblazoned in Canadian hockey lore. The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and also made it to the final in 2013, falling to the Chicago Blackhawks. 

At the Lockeroom, Bob McKee says playoff hockey is a great way to mingle with fellow hockey fans and enjoy the weather, finally. 

"It's great to get out and watch the games, and it's great for the loca economy, too," McKee said.

Downtown at Flying Monkeys on Dunlop Street East, that's a sentiment tap room manager Ryan Perry can get behind. 

"The Leafs playing well always brings out a good crowd on those days," Perry told BarrieToday. "It's all of the fans gathered around the TV sets, side chatting and doing what fans do."

Perry, who has lived in Ottawa but cheers for the Winnipeg Jets, says Leafs fans are "very hopeful" they can win Game 7 this year.

While Perry's Jets were eliminated Saturday by the St. Louis Blues, he still holds out hope for the Leafs.

"I'd like to see at least one Canadian team go a little farther," he said. "Fingers crossed."

It has also been an extremely hard post-season to predict, with several of the top teams and Cup contenders having already been ousted, including the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators.

Many pundits believe that will be extremely helpful to any team that advances to the second round and beyond. 

Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights will also face off in a do-or-die game tonight at 10 p.m. 

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals have also been pushed to a seventh game by the upstart Carolina Hurricanes, with that game set for Wednesday night, which will put a cap on the first round of the NHL playoffs. 

The winner of Game 7 tonight between Boston and Toronto will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the next round. The Blue Jackets surprised hockey fans around the world with a four-game sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished the regular season with one of the best records in NHL history.

Puck drop is set for just after 7 p.m., Tuesday, at TD Garden in Boston.




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Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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