Young Leafs Learning Valuable Playoff Lessons

The 2017 NHL playoffs are full of surprise, intensity and amazing storylines. One team that encompasses all three of those narratives is the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs weren’t supposed to be anywhere near a playoff spot this soon into their rebuild.

But yet, here they are, facing off against the league’s best team the Washington Capitals in a first round match that has all the makings of a classic. As the series stands, it is all evened up, with each squad taking two games apiece. It has been an absolute back and forth battle between the two franchises, with three of the four games going into extra time.

Leafs Playing with House Money

The good times keep rolling for the Maple Leafs. The plucky, young team has captured the hearts of fans all across the league. It started in the regular season as the rookies came alive and carried the team to their first postseason berth since 2013. Frederik Andersen was also a huge factor in helping the Leafs make their playoff run.

The Leafs were unable to pull out the final point total they needed to secure themselves a berth against their Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Senators. They fell into the second wild card spot and were gifted with taking on the NHL’s best team in the Capitals.

Many pundits assumed this series was over before it even got started. Tongue in cheek, there was even talk of Capitals winning in three games.

Despite all that, the Leafs have been earning respect with every game played. They’ve proven that they can win, both at home and on the road. This is a Leafs team that isn’t shying away from a playoff beast likes the Caps. The only way to go out and secure a win would be to charge headlong into the fray.

For the most part, that’s exactly what the Leafs have done. The Capitals have come out guns blazing and have worked their way into leads. The Leafs, however, have rarely folded and have weathered the storm which has allowed them to make late game comebacks. Sometimes, like in game four, they make it close but the Capitals were able to hang on for the regulation win.

It’s been a back and forth series filled with some incredible moments. It will now shift back over to Washington in a pivotal game five showdown.

Leafs fans are fine with that, however. If at the beginning of the series, someone had said that the Leafs would be tied two games each after the first four, I think just about every fan would gladly accept that outcome. The pressure is on the Caps to succeed and the Leafs will use that to their advantage.

It’s guaranteed to be at least a six-game series that will see both teams sprint for the finish line. It’s a race that will be going right down to the wire in what has arguably been the NHL’s most exciting first round matchup.

Valuable Lessons

Many people thought that the Leafs would be unable to go up against a juggernaut like the Capitals. Through four games, I think it’s safe to put those doubts to rest.

The Leafs are an up and coming team. They are trying their best to learn how to win in today’s NHL, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Mike Babcock, the Leafs head coach, has been preaching consistency the entire two years he’s been here.

He see’s the potential in this team and is in the process of molding them into a consistent winner. This was a year of valuable experiences for them. They had the opportunity to participate in a playoff race that came right down to the wire.

Now they’re getting a baptism by fire as they take on the President’s trophy winning Capitals. They’re learning not to blow leads and how to compete with some of the best teams in the NHL.

Any playoff games are good for the young core who will call on this experience down the road and in the near future as the team transitions into a contender.

They should also have gained some hard lessons from this series. If you want to compete with the Capitals, a good start is all but essential. The Leafs can’t be intimidated or starstruck by the Capitals firepower either. They need to play loose and relaxed but also with a touch of fear and desperation.

It’s going to be a photo finish for the end of this series. If the Leafs end up pulling off the upset, the city of Toronto is in for a chaotic explosion of unbridled joy.