Looking ahead for the Maple Leafs: How Auston Matthews & Co. take the next step

Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2018-19, three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction for what next season will hold.

What went wrong

What went wrong? You mean, besides the humbling inequity of the NHL's playoff format, in which the team with the fifth-most points in the Eastern Conference was forced to play the team with the second-most points in an opening-round playoff series? A system that has seemingly created a debilitating "Groundhog Day" scenario in which the Toronto Maple Leafs were forced into a first-round matchup with their primary tormentors, the Boston Bruins, only to suffer another soul-crushing Game 7 loss?

Beyond that, the Leafs remain a team that scores a ton of goals (3.49 per game) but gives up too many of them (3.04), and they continue to have issues with shot suppression, as only seven teams gave up more per game than did the Leafs in the regular season (33.1). The acquisition of John Tavares turned Toronto into a three-lines-deep offensive machine, but there's work to be done to get to true Stanley Cup contention level.