After taking a step backward in terms of regular season success between the 2021-22 and the 2022-23 seasons, very few people predicted that the Florida Panthers would have made it all the way to the 2023 Stanley Cup. Yet, that’s exactly what they did. Of course, it wasn’t an easy road to get there. The Panthers had to defeat a number of imposing teams in order to face the Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup; one of which was the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, the 2023 NHL playoffs matchup between the Maple Leafs and Panthers was an extremely evenly matched series (every game except one was decided by one goal), and also provided a few of the most exciting games hockey fans saw all season. And while only one team emerged victorious, the series meant stakes have been raised between these two teams in 2023-24.
In this article, we’ll discuss the Maple Leafs’ and the Panthers head to head history, their respective backgrounds in the NHL, their iconic 2023 playoff series, and what to expect from their battles in 2023-24.
Leafs vs Panthers Head to Head History
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers franchises have played each other a total of 104 times. Of those, the Maple Leafs have won 49 games, while the Panthers have won 48 (7 have ended in ties). However, the Panthers hold the edge in total goals for the series, having scored 315 times against Toronto while the Maple Leafs have scored 307 goals against Florida.
The most recent matchup between the Maple Leafs and the Panthers came on October 19, 2023, where the Panthers beat the Maple Leafs by a score of 3-1. In the last 10 years, the longest winning streak in this matchup is held by the Maple Leafs, who won a whopping 11 straight games against the Panthers between March 15, 2017, and January 13, 2020.
Toronto and Florida play each other four times in the 2023-24 regular season: on October 19 in Florida (which the Panthers won 3-1), November 28 (in Toronto), April 1 (in Toronto), and April 16 (in Florida).
Leafs vs Panthers Rivalry Background
While these teams have squared off 104 times before, they had never matched up in the playoffs prior to last season; which is surprising, considering that the Maple Leafs are one of the most storied franchises in the NHL; having been around since 1971 and winning 13 Stanley Cups (although none since 1967). The Panthers, on the other hand, have been an NHL franchise since 1993, and are still seeking their first ever Stanley Cup.
All of which is to say that there wasn’t any bad blood or reason for hostility between these two teams — until last year’s playoffs.
Leafs vs Panthers 2023 NHL Playoffs Matchup
After the Florida Panthers finished the 2022-3 NHL regular season with a record of 42-32-8 (92 points), they shocked the top-seeded Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. As for the Maple Leafs, they finished the regular season with a record of 50-21-11 (111 points), and defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round; which set these two teams on a collision course in the second round.
Game 1 of this series took place in Toronto, on May 2, 2023. Led by a three-assist performance from Matthew Tkachuk, the Panthers were able to waltz into Toronto and steal Game 1 away from the Maple Leafs by a score of 4-2. This ended up being the only match in the entire series that was decided by more than one goal.
Game 2 also took place in Toronto, and was also a thriller. Despite the Maple Leafs scoring two goals in the first period, the Panthers — led by a fantastic 35-save performance from their goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky — erased a two-goal deficit and came back to win the game by a score of 3-2.
This put the Maple Leafs in a super tough position, having lost two straight games at home and then going to Florida. Yet, they managed to take Game 3 to overtime, due to goals from Erik Gustafsson and Sam Lafferty which made the game 2-2. Unfortunately for Toronto, Florida’s Sam Reinhart scored an impressive goal in overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 win and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
But the Maple Leafs refused to give up on themselves. Back in Florida for Game 4, Maple Leafs’ Right Wing Mitch Marner produced a crucial goal and an assist in order to save Toronto from getting swept, as they ended up winning the intense game 2-1.
Which meant the series would return to Toronto for Game 5 — which proved to be the most enthralling game of the entire series. With game five tied 2–2 after three periods, the Panthers’ Nick Cousins scored a seismic overtime goal, which advanced Florida to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in twenty-seven years — and in doing so, ended the Maple Leafs’ 2022-23 season.
Leafs vs Panthers 2023-24 Matchup Analysis
While it may not seem like the case (because the Panthers ultimately won the series 4 games to 1), these two teams were very evenly matched last year. In fact, if not for a few pucks breaking in the Panthers’ favor, the series’ momentum could have swung toward Toronto early on in the series, which might have been enough for them to win the series, and allow them to advance instead of Florida. Alas, that wasn’t the case, and the Panthers edged past Toronto — and ultimately made it to the Stanley Cup, where they lost to the Golden Knights.
But now hockey fans have a new rivalry to get excited about; one which has already commenced in the 2023-24 season, with the Panthers and Maple Leafs playing on October 19. While we already know how that match ended, there are still three more regular season matchups (not to mention a potential playoffs rematch) looming for the Maple Leafs and the Panthers. We fans can only hope each face-off between these two teams delivers like they all did last season.
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