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5 Weaknesses That Could Hurt Toronto Maple Leafs' Chances for a Deep Playoff Run

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIApril 7, 2013

5 Weaknesses That Could Hurt Toronto Maple Leafs' Chances for a Deep Playoff Run

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, just six points out of fourth, which would give them home-ice advantage in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

    The team has also managed to post a 6-1-3 record in their past 10 games, and even the regulation loss to the Philadelphia Flyers was decided by a very questionable goal.

    Yet not everything is hunky dory in Leaf Land.

    Toronto still has some some major holes that need to be fixed if this team is going to make any kind of run in the postseason.

    Here are a few of the Leafs' weaknesses as the postseason nears.

Giveaways

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    Turnovers are certainly one of Toronto's biggest problems this season.

    If you typically sit at home and think, "Gee, it seems like this Leafs squad turns the puck over more than anyone," well, you'd be spot on.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs have given away the puck this season more than any other NHL club. In fact, they're the only team to have given the puck away more than 400 times (no, that's not a typo) in 2013.

    Toronto's turned the puck over a whopping 438 times. That's 57 more giveaways than the New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks, who are tied for the second most turnovers at 381.

    If the Leafs expect to make any kind of noise in the postseason, they have to cut down on the rate at which they turn the puck over.

Puck Possession

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    The incredible amount of turnovers the Leafs have committed this season segues nicely into the Leafs' second major problem.

    Toronto also happens to struggle when it comes to puck possession.

    Much of this stems from the aforementioned turnover rate, but it also has to do with Toronto's inability to sustain long attacks when playing five-on-five hockey.

    Having just one or two defensemen capable of consistently making effective first passes from their own end is also killing this Leafs team some nights.

    These factors combine to explain why Toronto gives up more shots per 60 minutes of five-on-five action (33.3) than any other team, while only racking up more shots per 60 minutes while at full strength (27.1) than seven other teams.

    That disparity is sure to be exploited in the postseason by some of the conference's more disciplined teams, and special teams can only take you so far.

Youth

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    Before everyone jumps on me for mentioning the team's youth being a weakness, let me first clarify what I mean.

    There is no doubt that the young players on this team have played an important role in getting this Leafs team to where it is now.

    That's because just about every player on this team is young. The Leafs are actually the NHL's fourth youngest team this season.

    That could potentially hurt them come playoff time.

    Most of the Leafs' young guns haven't played much playoff hockey in the NHL. Even Dion Phaneuf, the team's 27-year-old captain, has only played 25 NHL playoff games in his seven previous seasons.

    Without a real veteran presence who has played many playoff games and knows how tough playing the same team for at least four consecutive games can be, the Leafs could have a rough time adjusting to playoff hockey.

Joffrey Lupul's Injury

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    There's no questioning that Joffrey Lupul has been one of Toronto's most important players this season.

    When he returned from injury, the boost he provided offensively was unmistakable.

    Problem is, he's hurt. Again.

    When the Leafs were without Lupul earlier this season, Toronto was a good team, but sported a record that was just a few games above .500.

    If Lupul isn't able to return for the postseason, or if he suffers another injury either before or during the playoffs, it could really hamper the Leafs' chances of winning a playoff series or two.

Soft Goals Against

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    Toronto's goaltending in 2013 isn't nearly as poor as it was last season.

    James Reimer has come up big in many situations this year but is still prone to giving up bad goals, especially when it comes to his glove side and five-hole.

    Should Reimer be given a chance to gain some playoff experience as this team's starter? Yes.

    Is it possible that some of his weaknesses can be exposed by some of the league's top teams? Absolutely.

Conclusion

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    This Leafs team may not be perfect, and there may be some weaknesses that linger, but make no mistake, this Toronto Maple Leafs club is much better than it has been in quite some time.

    Last season, finding five weaknesses was a really easy task.

    This season, other than some defensive holes, there isn't much to complain about.

    If Toronto can shore up a few of the defensive problems and Joffrey Lupul can find a way to stay healthy, this team has the potential to really make some noise in a few weeks' time.

     

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