NHL Playoffs 2013: Takeaways from Toronto Maple Leafs' Opener

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NHL Playoffs 2013: Takeaways from Toronto Maple Leafs' Opener
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

With Game 1 now a thing of the past, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can now sit back and assess what Game 1 means for this club going forward without any kind of clouded judgement.

The opening contest of the Leafs first postseason series in the salary cap era provided some valuable lessons about the Buds.

The underwhelming performance from just about every player on the team left a lot to be desired, and much to be improved upon.

Here are a few things we learned about the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.

 

Mike Kostka is Not an NHL Defenseman

Claus Andersen/Getty Images
As much as some Leafs fans may like Mike Kostka, he simply is not a NHL-caliber defenseman.

Mike Kostka's story is an inspiring one, sure.

After years of trying to make a name for himself in the AHL, the native of Ajax, Ontario (a suburb just to the east of Toronto), finally earned his shot at playing in the NHL after he had a sensational start to the season with the Toronto Marlies.

Fast-forward a few months and it has become painful to watch Kostka on the ice if you're partial to the Blue and White.

Kostka is not a physical presence, cannot play along the boards, turns the puck over regularly, has absolutely no shot from the point, is not great with the puck and struggles with first passes from his own zone. In short, he doesn't really do anything well.

Game 1 made this crystal clear.

From amateurish turnovers, to screening his own goalie and not blocking Boston's shots, Kostka was a disaster.

Kostka, however, won't be playing for the foreseeable future, after he suffered a broken finger on his right hand in Game 1 (per Mark Masters of TSN):

 

 

As a pending free agent this offseason, Leafs fans everywhere should hope he isn't re-signed by GM Dave Nonis.

 

Mikhail Grabovski Deserves More Credit

Throughout the season, Leafs fans have voiced their displeasure with the production of centerman Mikhail Grabovksi.

Now making $5.5 million per season, Grabovski had a down year, quickly finding himself in head coach Randy Carlyle's dog house and relegated to the third line.

Game 1, though, showed why Grabovski deserves to be a key part of this team moving forward.

While he may not have shown up on the scoresheet (kind of hard to do when your head coach rarely puts you in a position to succeed offensively), he was one of the few Leafs who had a good game.

Grabovski was one of Toronto's top forecheckers, despite taking an Andrew Ference elbow to the head early on:

Andrew Ference actually received a one-game suspension for that infraction (per CBC.ca), yet the play drew no penalty.

With the right linemates and in the right situations, there is no doubt that Grabovski could bring his offensive numbers back up to par. The work ethic and ability is there.

This also gives the Leafs the ability to walk away from negotiations with Tyler Bozak this offseason if the young center's demands exceed what the team is willing to pay.

 

Toronto Still Has a Shot at Winning This Series

Was Game 1 an absolute embarrassment? Yes.

Toronto was dominated, no two ways about it.

Luckily for this team, the adjustments that need to be made are fairly minor tweaks.

For instance, the turnovers that led to Boston's third goal (the Leafs actually turned the puck over, recovered it and then managed to give it away a second time) haven't been a chronic problem this season.

The Leafs may turn the puck over a lot, but rarely does it happen in the center of the ice in the high slot.

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Shots like Johnny Boychuk's from the blue line are also preventable goals (Reimer needs to stop shots like that).

Furthermore, the Boston Bruins team that won 4-1 on Wednesday night may have been impressive when it comes to the boxscore, but it wasn't a team that should really have Leafs fans worried.

Had the Leafs played at the top of their game and lost 4-1, there would be major cause for concern. But Wednesday night was more about the Leafs beating themselves than being taken down by an unstoppable Bruins team.

After all, right before the Bruins scored their second and third goals, the Leafs had two phenomenal opportunities of their own. First it was James van Riemsdyk ringing one off the post with the game tied at one, and then down 2-1, Tyler Bozak had a glorious opportunity to even things up at two when he broke in on Rask alone.

 

Conclusion

While Game 1 may have been a massive disappointment for the Maple Leafs and their fans, this team is far from being out of this series.

With changes coming on defense for Game 2 (per David Alter of the FAN590), Toronto should be able to cut down on some of their mistakes:

 

 

If their forwards, especially their energy guys in Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri, can step up in Game 2, Toronto can expect its fair share of scoring chances.

Remember Leafs Nation, the pressure is still squarely on the shoulders of the Boston Bruins. They still need a Game 2 victory to maintain home-ice advantage.

 

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