"Long time coming": Leafs' McCabe set for playoff debut after 500+ NHL games

Apr 17 2023, 8:50 pm

For many members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, simply making the NHL playoffs isn’t much of an accomplishment.

Despite all the jokes — and truth — about their postseason ineptitude over the last several decades, Toronto has now qualified for seven straight postseasons.

It’s not much of a rarity, but rather the expectation that the Leafs will be among the NHL’s top teams — at least on paper — year in and year out.

For veteran players like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mark Giordano, playing in the postseason is just kind of what you anticipate each spring.

But then there’s Toronto defenceman Jake McCabe, who’s set to make his NHL playoff debut tomorrow at age 29, some 11 years after he was initially drafted into the league.

Acquired by the Leafs back in February via a trade with Chicago, McCabe has spent 504 NHL games across 10 seasons — including eight in Buffalo with the Sabres — without yet qualifying for the playoffs. Playing for a series of organizations that have, well, not exactly been among the NHL’s contenders for his tenure there, McCabe seems to be relishing the chance to taste his first postseason action with Toronto.

“Some guys don’t understand that it’s not as easy as just coming into the league. When you get opportunities to play in the playoffs, a lot of it depends on the situation you’re in and lucky enough. Right now I’m in the situation I’m in now, and lucky they brought me in to be a part of this,” McCabe told reporters today, per The Hockey News’ David Alter.

McCabe has a goal, four assists and a plus-minus of +12 in 21 games for Toronto this season, averaging 19:28 while primarily playing alongside TJ Brodie in the team’s top defensive pairs.

And it’s apparent that his coaching staff has high praise for the veteran ahead of his postseason debut.

“He’s good at a lot of things. He skates well, he moves the puck well, he’s got good offensive instincts, good defensive instincts. And he’s tough, he competes. He’s not afraid of anything, he stands his ground, whether it’s a block of shot or to protect his net or to protect his teammates,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe added.

Puck drop for tomorrow’s game is set for 7:30 pm ET, and it will be nationally broadcast on both CBC and Sportsnet.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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