Toronto Maple Leafs' Complete Blueprint to Win the 2013 Stanley Cup
With Game 1 in the books for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it's clear that this team has some major adjustments to make if they want to make a deep postseason run.
Wednesday night's showing in Boston against the fourth-seeded Bruins was an absolute disaster.
Some incredibly poor decisions, coupled with bad luck, saw the Leafs fall 4-1 to the Bruins.
Yet there is still hope for Leafs fans.
Keep in mind, the pressure is still on the Bruins' shoulders in round one—for now.
The Leafs have to focus on getting back on track and playing their game. A deep run isn't yet out of the realm of possibility—especially if the Buds can get past the Bruins. Toronto has played the rest of the Eastern Conference very well this season and has the tools to compete with just about anybody.
Here are the steps that need to be taken in order for the Leafs to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the 2013 postseason.
Match Up Properly with Your Opponent
First and foremost, the Leafs have to match up correctly with the team they're playing.
Playing both Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr up front may be advantageous against a team like the Montreal Canadiens, but trying to out-muscle the Bruins up front is a futile exercise, as we witnessed in Game 1.
On the other hand, having big bodies on the back end would help this team in the corners against Bruins forecheckers and in clogging the shooting lanes.
If I'm Randy Carlyle, I ensure that Matt Frattin comes in for one of the fourth-line fighters going forward and Ryan O'Byrne replaces Mike Kostka, who was embarrassed by the Bruins in Game 1.
In later rounds, the situation may arise where both fighters are needed in the lineup, but matching up strategically against the opposing team in each round is critical.
Personnel decisions can have a big impact on a series, as we learned last night.
Don't Panic in Your Own Zone
We see it time and time again.
The Leaf's blueliners either dump the puck out of the zone, or pass it to a teammate who is immediately pressured into a scrum along the boards.
It's the reason the team struggles in the possession game and is hemmed in their own zone so often.
Being able to make a good first pass that allows the Leafs to either skate the puck out of their zone or have the time to make a secondary pass that starts a rush up ice is probably the single most important step that Toronto need to take in order to start winning playoff games.
At the same time, when the opposition does have the puck in the Leafs' zone, they—again—need to remain calm and play their game.
Toronto has had an incredible amount of success this season forcing opponents to the outside and into shots that are easy for netminder James Reimer to handle.
If the Leafs have any chance at a deep playoff run, shutting down the middle of the ice and not allowing the opposition to stray them away from their game plan is imperative.
Have a Short Memory
This is one aspect of Toronto's game that has been much better under head coach Randy Carlyle.
This point, however, applies to in-game situations as well. Rebounding from a bad loss hasn't been too much of a problem for Toronto in 2013, but rebounding during a game after giving up a goal or two has been a problem.
Game 1 is a perfect example of how the Leafs crumbled.
Bad decisions, bad passes and a few bad bounces led to the Bruins pulling away.
Head coach Randy Carlyle pointed this out as well in his postgame podium appearance, saying the team self-destructed after opening the game with plenty of energy.
Moving past a bad goal and avoiding mental collapses will go a long way toward ensuring Toronto can make a long, sustainable run through the postseason.
We all know that the team will need Phil Kessel to produce and James Reimer to continue playing at a high level. Having individuals perform as they should is obvious.
Talking about how the Leafs can make a run to the Cup finals and maybe even win goes beyond that.
Exhibiting more mental fortitude is what the playoffs are all about.
Every team that makes it this far is talented and dangerous, especially when the conference standings from the regular season were as tight as they were in 2013.
Now it comes down to being able to move past your mistakes and refusing to let your opponent force you away from your game plan. We all know Toronto has the talent to beat anyone in the Eastern Conference. Now it's about being able to execute the system that has made them successful up to this point.
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