Nylander: Maple Leafs 'don't need to be scared to lose' Game 7
"I think we came out a little flat in those games - like we were a little bit scared to lose," Nylander said of Toronto's previous Game 7 struggles, according to ESPN's Kristen Shilton. "We don't need to be scared to lose. We've got a great team."
Toronto hasn't closed out a series in a Game 7 since 2004, against the Ottawa Senators. The Maple Leafs have an all-time record of 12-13 in Game 7 and were outscored 15-6 in their last three (Montreal Canadiens in 2021, Boston Bruins in 2018 and 2019).
Heading into Saturday's Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, head coach Sheldon Keefe is staying calm under pressure.
"This is as confident as I've been coaching this team," Keefe said.
He added, "It's because of how we've played in this series. ... The confidence has grown through the series. The players are going to be relaxed and play with energy. We're going to give ourselves every opportunity to win the game."
Keefe is in his third season as head coach of the Maple Leafs. He boasts a regular-season record of 116-50-19 but hasn't helped his team break out of the first round.
Toronto will face a tall task while trying to eliminate a talented Lightning team chasing its third consecutive Stanley Cup.
"We're standing here on the cusp of greatness, and why the hell wouldn't we charge through that door? Let's go get this. Let's go attack this," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said, per team beat writer Gabby Shirley. "If fear is the motivator, then so be it - but I don't want there being any excuse if it doesn't go well for us tonight."
Game 7 kicks off at 7 p.m. ET.
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