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2013 NHL Playoffs coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs from Maple Leafs Hot Stove.

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I was one of the more deflated Leafs fans after witnessing game 1 of this Leafs-Bruins playoff series. I knew Boston previously matched up like kryptonite against the Leafs, and the game went pretty much exactly as I envisioned in my head; essentially, it was an extension of the last dozen or so matchups against the Bs.

Then Game 2 happened. And, even after last night’s Game 3 loss, I now consider myself considerably less pessimistic.

Let’s break down the goals against from last night:

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Toronto put up a valiant effort in their first home playoff game in far too long. Despite finally outshooting their opponents, the Maple Leafs paid the price for a handful of individual, but egregious errors. The Bruins regained their home ice advantage with the victory, but the Leafs sustained offensive pressure and created numerous chances with nearly fifty shots on the night.  In short – tonight’s tilt was reminiscent in many ways of the positives from game two, with a scattering of costly turnovers that were the trademark of game one.

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The unexpected catharsis of Saturday’s night win in Boston has provided Leafs Nation with a much needed release of some tension and anger after game one’s eye-opening reality check.

The Leafs are now heading into Toronto tied with Boston after stealing home-ice advantage.  For the first time since 2004, our Toronto Maple Leafs will host a playoff game in the Air Canada Centre!

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Lee Stempniak, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, Brett Lebda, John Ferguson Jr. Those and others like them have plagued the Maple Leafs for the past eight seasons and gave us fits of hopelessness, despair, and rage. Tonight represents the the culmination of Toronto’s retooling; the first playoff game in the Air Canada Centre since May 4th, 2004.

As much as our excitement over a first round series has been mocked , it’s generally falling on deaf ears. Are we over doing it for a first round series? I don’t think so. I think the hockey world is just getting reacquainted with how real hockey fans support their team in the playoffs. Hockey in Toronto is not confined to the arena, it spills out across the entire city.

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Seems nobody told the Leafs this wasn’t supposed to be much of a series.

Toronto stole home ice advantage from Boston with a thrilling 4-2 win last night and if the first playoff game back in Toronto didn’t already hold enough intrigue, it’s now going to be officially bonkers.

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For anyone rubbing their eyes and waking up this morning, I can confirm that what you saw last night was NOT a dream. It was dream-like, but not actually a dream. It happened.

The Leafs won their first playoff game since 2004 and in the process beat the Bruins in Boston for the first time in over two calendar years.

Phil Kessel scored his first goal at evens against the Bruins, and he waited until the playoffs, in the third period (representing the game winner), to do it.

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The three day break has given us much time to digest the events of Wednesday night. The Leafs can draw inspiration from the inexperienced Islanders last night with the way that team was blown out in game 1, looked to be in the process of getting blown out early in game 2, fought back, and now find themselves on equal footing in a best of five series against the heavily favoured Penguins. All we can do is hope the Leafs make the necessary adjustments and find something more within themselves tonight in Boston.

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Well, that was a rude awakening wasn’t it? Here we were all were excited and pumped up about playoff hockey… Only to come crashing back to Earth watching the Leafs play like that.

After the jump, I’ll discuss the main narratives circulating right now and offer my two cents. From there I proceeded to re-watch the game – unfortunately — and have written out some additional notes. I’ll wrap up with the biggest questions going into Game 2.

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After last night there is no shortage of critics jumping on the uselessness of the likes of Mark Fraser, Mike Kostka, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren and by extension the coach who continues to deploy them in his lineup. To varying degrees I have been frustrated with all of them at points throughout the season.

The fact of the matter is that toughness did play an appreciable role in the Leafs success over the 48-game haul. Let’s forget facepunching for today. Without James Reimer there’s no Leafs playoffs, but without a simplification of the defensive game, an emphasis on winning more one on one battles and protecting your net in an overall effort to reduce chances inside 20 feet, maybe Reimer isn’t in a position so much to succeed.

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Game 1 is in the books and after a brief moment of post-season exaltation that was nine years in the making, the Leafs were handed a 4-1 drubbing from the Beantown Bruins. ICYMI, here’s the first ever Playoffs Game in 10 in MLHS history via Mislav.

Not shockingly, this game resembled those from prior seasons, where 5-on-5 hockey looked like a Bruins powerplay, giveaways were in abundance, and the Leafs’ top offensive players were unable to gain the Bruins zone with any sort of speed, aggression or consistency.  At certain points in the game, even the Bruins’ fourth line had the Leafs hemmed into their own zone. As Carlyle put it during his post-game presser, the team just seemed to implode and “guys were falling down” even when no one was around (psst…Barb Underhill).

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Here we are with the first ever PLAYOFF Game In 10 on MLHS. The Boston Bruins won three out of four regular season meetings between the two teams, but went 3-5-2 during the last 10 game stretch. Meanwhile, the Leafs entered the series with a 5-4-1 record. Let’s examine the horror learning process that unfolded.

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Well, here we are. Leaf Nation’s 9 year wait for their team to make it to the post season is finally over and done with. Although this sensation is a welcomed one, many Leaf fans cannot help but now feel like they are in uncharted territory. Indeed, as every bold blue and white explorer ventures on, he confronts new challenges in his fandom.

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Since when do the Leafs do things the easy way, anyways? The truth is the Leafs made their bed on this one. All they had to do was beat Montreal at home on Saturday night to play the Habs and give everyone the series they wanted to see. They laid an egg. Boston blows a two goal lead against Washington and then lets in a late one against Ottawa to lose two games in a row and here we are.

I don’t think the Leafs have a better chance at beating Boston than they did Montreal, but I’ll say this about the series: Nobody is seriously picking the Leafs to win this one and I look forward to seeing Toronto in the underdog role. If nothing else, hopefully they make this a war.

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Beggars can’t be choosers I guess. And thanks to the Senators, instead of a historic matchup against the Canadiens the Leafs will be facing the bastards from Bean town. (Here’s a great recap of all of this seasons matchups).

One year ago the articles on this series would be darker than Marc Savards house, but thankfully the Bruins have been falling down to Earth to the point that the Leafs have finally been able to grab a win off of them.

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It’s official. The Leafs will face the Bruins in round one.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for the Habs on Tuesday. As much as the last four games against the Habs have been a mixed bag, the Leafs have been able to play their game and play to their strengths against Montreal. The Leafs have played the Bs much more competitively this season, but the Bruins have still been effective at negating the Leafs speed and skill up front, slowing them down and forcing them to grind for every goal. While the Bruins have backed into the playoffs, their forecheck is still top notch. For a Leafs team that struggles to diffuse a forecheck with efficient breakouts, that’s a scary prospect. The Bruins have experience, the core of a past Stanley Cup winner and play a tough playoff brand of hockey.