TORONTO – The emotions of the moment are raw.
Maple Leafs keeper Jack Campbell is crying. Star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner cut lone figures, heads down, in a dejected locker room.
Toronto just lost to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7, the final act of an impressive collapse after building a 3-1 series lead to cement another devastating first-round playoff loss.
The scenes, set in the finale of Amazon Prime’s “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs,” are among the candid behind-the-scenes glimpses of the five-episode series that traces the Original Six franchise to last season.
“It’s real … that’s what you want,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said in an interview with The Canadian Press when asked what a tortured fanbase would take from the final heartbreaking sequence. “How people interpret it is up to them. I just know that our people care deeply. We recognize the responsibility that we have.
“When you fail to deliver and are unsuccessful, it hits you harder.”
It is no secret how the 2020-21 season, which was played in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic that began with so much hope and promise, ends for the Leafs, an organization that has been without a Stanley Cup for 54 years and has not. has done. won a playoff round since 2004.
But “All or Nothing,” which premieres on Amazon’s streaming service on Friday, takes viewers inside the NHL ropes with unprecedented backstage access.
There are candid conversations between the players and the management, tense exchanges between the coaches, passionate speeches and colorful language.
Lots of colorful language.
The cameras are there when defender Jake Muzzin breaks a bone in his face and when winger Zach Hyman suffers a knee injury.
“You forgot they were there,” Keefe said of the film crew. “You are in a conversation, you are training, you are teaching or you are speaking with your team.”
The acquisition of center Nick Foligno before the NHL trade deadline figures prominently as general manager Kyle Dubas navigates the market, while goalkeeper Frederik Andersen’s attempt to regain full health receives plenty of time in front of the screen.
There are plenty of lighter moments too, including Joe Thornton listening to his car radio as hockey expert Brian Burke, who is now president of the Pittsburgh Penguins, criticizes the Leafs’ decision to sign the veteran winger.
Matthews said he’s eager to get the series started, voiced by Toronto-born actor and Leafs fan Will Arnett, while at the same time dreading its conclusion.
“I could skip the last episode,” he said. “It will be a different perspective on what life is like.”
Marner, a lightning rod for frustrated fans after last spring’s postseason, hopes people will see the Leafs as more than just names on a jersey.
“Everybody always thinks of us as hockey players, we should be hockey players and nothing else,” he said. “Everyone on our team has so much more to show than just dressing in our gear and going out and playing 60 minutes of hockey every night.”
“All or Nothing” also deals with the horrific injury suffered by Toronto captain John Tavares in Game 1 against Montreal, including gripping footage and audio from the minutes before he was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Then there’s Keefe, truly the star of a series that should appeal to more than just hockey fans as he relentlessly pushes his team on.
The trainer said a concern before filming was that certain tense moments could become exaggerated months after the fact.
“They want to put together something that’s entertaining,” said Keefe, who has yet to see the final cut of the show. “There are a lot of things that happen that are quite boring (during the season). There are thousands of hours of footage.
“Some conversations are captured, others are not. Some are in spaces where there are no cameras or microphones, others are done via text message or cell phone or while walking down the hall. Much of that context is not captured. “
Nor do you expect hard feelings.
“Like everything else we go through here, we have to block that out and focus on the relationships that we have within the walls,” Keefe said. “And I trust them.”
He added that one element he could overdo is a common theme woven into everything related to his perceived concern that Toronto, which made several breakthroughs last season despite its crushing conclusion, is not ready to face the challenges that lie ahead.
“The job of every coach is always to find where you can improve,” he said. “When the stakes are high, you are trying to be an elite among the elite. It’s challenging to get there, so you’ll have those kinds of conversations and those moments. We had a lot of positivity around our team last season, many reasons to believe.
“That’s part of the reason the disappointment was felt.”
But that disappointment, vividly documented in “All of Nothing,” is something Keefe hopes will shine through.
“We share the passion (of the fans) and their excitement,” he said. “Our job is to wake up each day and work to be better than the day before.
“We are doing everything we can to deliver.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 29, 2021.
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