The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning are facing each other in the first round of the playoffs for the second year straight.
The Maple Leafs have had a hard time getting past the first round, but this year, with a Lightning who’s missing a bunch of star players with injuries, hopes are high of making a great run.
It’s a special matchup for many of the players, but especially for Lightning forward Pat Maroon and Leafs forward Ryan O’Reilly. They were both key players when the St. Louis Blues won the Cup in 2019, and now, their paths cross as opponents in the playoffs.
Pat Maroon was the player that clinched the Cup with his goal in double OT of Game 7. Ryan O’Reilly, on the other hand, earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after scoring eight goals and 23 assists in 26 games. O’Reilly was also named the top defensive forward (Frank J. Selke Trophy), and he joined the Maple Leafs earlier this season.
Maroon and O’Reilly share a lifelong friendship after their success with the Blues, and before the first-round series of this year’s playoff started, they talked about how special it will be.
“It’s going to be weird,” said Maroon. “I just wish the best for him no matter what. We won together. He’s honestly my best friend. I’m just so happy for him. He gets an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup again … I’m not happy the Leafs got him, but happy he gets an opportunity to play in his hometown.”
Nothing special happened between the two former Stanley Cup champions in Game 1, but in Game 2, as all hell broke loose in an overall testy game, Pat Maroon couldn’t resist the urge to try a little joke on his buddy.
After a whistle, Maroon stood outside the Lightning’s bench, and beside him stood Ryan O’Reilly. Maroon poked his stick at O’Reilly’s hand and glove, but O’Reilly’s reaction was priceless. You could tell that he wanted to laugh and do something back, but he resisted the urge and just stared straight ahead. You could see a very subtle smile coming from the Leafs forward, but nothing more than that.
After all, it’s the playoffs, and you don’t want to show any signs of being out of focus. We love to see it!