First night of playoffs teaches lesson to young Maple Leafs

Apr 15, 2017, 05:41
First night of playoffs teaches lesson to young Maple Leafs

Leafs coach Mike Babcock was pleased his team started on the second night of the playoffs so that his players could get a taste of what they might be in for in Game 1. FILE - In this January 26, 2017, file photo, Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews skates during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, in Philadelphia.

If the pundits are to be believed, the experience in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs will be a short one for the Leafs. They combined for two goals in 94 previous playoff games.

Toronto's goalie Frederik Andersen is expected to be between the pipes, but the Buds will be without rookie defenceman Nikita Zaitsev. Matthews led National Hockey League rookies with 40 goals and 69 points in helping the youth-laden Maple Leafs make the jump from dead last a year ago to 14th and clinch the franchise's second playoff berth in 12 seasons. But when they score, all the bench said, 'Just calm down and let's play our way.' Coming back in after first there was no panic, obviously still lots of minutes to play.

Said Coach Barry Trotz: "I've had one conversation as an individual with him the last couple days about what I expect in the playoffs from him". It's also more expensive than any first-round series we've tracked in eight years.

"All the old cliches, time and space, be hard on them", Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said of stopping Toronto.

Despite the Washington Capitals winning the President's Trophy as the top regular-season team for the second straight season while boasting the always unsafe duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, fans are nervous. While Toronto scored the fifth most goals, they also allowed the eighth most. "The regular season's over", Phaneuf stressed. Needless to say, Zaitsev has become a major contributor on the Maple Leafs blue line, and his absence will be felt tremendously.

"I don't know 100 percent for sure", Babcock said about the timetable for Zaitsev, who skated this year on the top defensive pairing. It's a daunting task for any team to go up against a juggernaut, but anything can happen over the course of a seven-game series.

"I've been away from the team a little bit so I think that's the biggest thing is feeling everything out and getting back into the swing of things as far as the passing, the breakouts, all that kind of stuff", Carlson said. James Van Riemsdyk passed the puck off the goal and into the slot where Marner beat Brooks Orpik and Lars Eller to it and deposited the puck. They extended that lead with Jake Gardiner's point shot with traffic up front by Nazem Kadri. Roman Polak should play after being injured in the regular-season finale. The Caps almost crumbled against a far inferior Philadelphia squad last season and Washington has been synonymous with falling short in the post-season ever since the Ovechkin epoch began. Fans must tip their hats to the Capitals training staff, doctors and nutritional team for keeping the team strong and conditioned all season long. "I like the youthful enthusiasm we have, I like how quick we can play, but we're going to have to play quick and do the right things". They're as deep as they've been in years and their path to the Stanley Cup has never been clearer.

Others, like Carrick, are not fretting too much about how much talent the Capitals have.

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