The Toronto Maple Leafs have the Montreal Canadiens right where they want them.
Toronto locked themselves in thanks to a 4-0 win on Tuesday, trouncing the Habs in Game Four to take a 3-1 series lead.
History tells us that nothing is certain in the Maple Leafs’ universe and the fanbase wouldn’t be blamed for watching Thursday’s Game Five with their eyes closed.
But maybe – just maybe – there’s a little confidence in the air as Toronto looks to secure its first playoff series in 17 years.
The Maple Leafs have been up in the count before and blown everything right when it mattered most, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that this time is different.
Part of what’s different is Toronto’s recent accumulation of back-to-back road wins, including the Game Four triumph. And that’s not exactly expected, what with T-dot dropping seven of its last Game Fours when leading the series.
Another part of what’s different is William Nylander, who scored for a fourth straight contest on Tuesday.
Goalie Jack Campbell collected his first playoff shutout and Alex Galchenyuk made a big impact with a goal and two assists.
“The stakes are so high, you can just see how much the players care, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Probably one of the most exciting parts of these playoffs is to see players find that within themselves to do those things.”
The Habs have lost three straight and are entering dangerous territory.
Teams down 3-1 in a playoff series are 29-292. That gives Toronto a 91 percent chance of icing this thing and puts the Canadiens in one difficult position.
Jason Spezza scored on Tuesday, becoming the fifth oldest player to score a goal for Toronto in the post-season. Joe Thornton also scored, becoming the oldest player to score a goal for Toronto in the post-season.
“We’re going to see their absolute best next game and we have to make sure that we’re ready to go,” Spezza said. “It’s important we get some rest here after a tough back-to-back, and then we’ve got to come ready to play because they’re going to be a determined team. The fourth win is the hardest to get.”