3 Toronto Maple Leafs stars key to the team's Stanley Cup ambitions 

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens
3 Toronto Maple Leafs stars key to the team's Stanley Cup ambitions

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won one playoff series in the salary cap era, which began in 2005-06. In 2022-23, the franchise beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round but lost to the Florida Panthers in the second round.

The Maple Leafs star 69-goal scorer Auston Matthews, 40-goal scorer William Nylander, 99-point player Mitch Marner, and John Tavares, who recently scored his 1,000th point.

Talent is not an issue for Toronto, as their roster is full of All-Stars. However, getting them to perform under the bright lights of the Stanley Cup playoffs has been a recurring challenge.

Right now, the Maple Leafs are facing their Original Six rivals, the Boston Bruins, in the opening round of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Considering they haven't beaten Boston in the postseason since 1959, there's a lot of pressure on this year's team to reverse the curse.

3 Toronto Maple Leafs stars key to the team's Stanley Cup ambitions

#3 Mitch Marner

Marner has scored over 95 points twice, earning a point-per-game average of 1.10 with 639 points in 576 regular season games. However, in eight postseason appearances, he has just 47 points in 52 games, equalling a points-per-game average of 0.90. Interestingly, 14 of his career points came in 2023-23, when he played 11 games.

Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unfairly, Marner has received a lot of criticism for his performance in limited games. But, so far in 2024, he had no points and just four shots on goal in two games.

As one of the top players in the Maple Leafs lineup, it will be up to him to play at his very best if the club has any chance of advancing deep.

Matthews is the team's star player, but he is not a one-player show and needs his supporting cast to chip in, which starts with Marner.

#2 Ilya Samsonov

Ilya Samsonov earned a one-year deal through arbitration last summer, valued at $3.5 million. Unfortunately, heading into free agency again in 2024, he had a season to forget.

From Oct. 11 to Dec. 29, Samsonov was 5-2-6 with a .862 save percentage and a 3.46 goals-against average, earning a demotion to the minor leagues. After his reset, he responded with an 18-5-2 record in 25 starts, bumping up his numbers to a .904 save percentage and 2.72 goals-against average.

He earned a one-year prove-it deal in 2023 and had a Jekyll and Hyde-type season. As the main guy for the Maple Leafs between the pipes, it's on his shoulders to get the wins with big saves.

#1 Auston Matthews

Matthews already has a Hart and Art Ross Trophy on his mantle but is missing success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. After scoring a career-high 69 goals in the regular season, it's time for him to lead Toronto to a championship, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats.

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs.
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, the pressure to reach 70 was tough in the final days of the regular season. But the playoffs are a clean slate, meaning he's back at zero.

As the face of the organization and the soon-to-be highest-paid player in the NHL, Matthews needs to play with a chip on his shoulder, delivering a Stanley Cup to Toronto, which has waited over half a century for a parade.

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