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.

Every win will mean so much more, every loss will feel all the more painful. But, with time winding down to the first game of the playoffs, this becomes a territory of excitement. How far can they go? In a season where anything could happen (the Isles and Leafs made it, after all), this is truly a time when anything can and will happen. For everyone who sees the playoffs as a new experience, here are five rules to help you deal with that “anything.”

1) Playoffs are exhausting – be emotionally prepared

You’re dead wrong if you think you can watch the playoffs in a way that has you simply happy about the Leafs making it in. It’s almost like you’re playing (it’s not, but we like to pretend). A win will feel oh so sweet, but that sugary taste will stay in your mouth only until the next game is played. A loss will feel like the world’s going to end, especially an OT one. You should never get too high or too low, anywhere in the series, until the series is done. Then, all your emotions are free to come out. It’s exhausting. Simply remember – the series won’t be won today. If it will because it’s game 7, I have no answer for you. Depending on the result, you’ll be jumping up and down, pumping your fists or sit collapsed in front of the TV being all devastated. Stay emotionally prepared and don’t spill the popcorn.

2) Go to sleep/concentrate on other stuff after a loss

My personal recipe is sleeping and it has very much to do with games being on until early in the morning in my time zone. I suggest running or playing a sport to loosen the feeling you get after a playoff loss. It really stings and there’s not much you can do about it until the next game, the next chance for a Leafs W.

3) Never, ever ever engage fans of other teams in debates in the middle of a series

You’ll be somehow even more personally invested and those feelings of worry, anger or happiness after one game will quickly change once the debate turns a corner right after the next game. Playoff debates are often useless because emotions are running so high. Basically, a seven-game series undeniably puts forth a better team and a worse team at different junctures within. Plus, it’s so much more fun rubbing it in after a win in the series, after the other guy finds out exactly how wrong he was.

4) Realize some players are never as good as they appear to be in playoff stretches

Miracle playoff runs by underdog players make for fantastic storylines. Let’s use Fernando Pisani of the 05-06 Edmonton Oilers as an example. That year, Pisani scored 14 goals during the post season, paving the way for Edmonton’s near-Cup run. His highest ever NHL regular season total? 18 goals. You might want to take a look at Sean Bergenheim’s more recent run in 10-11 with 9 goals in 16 playoff games which helped Tampa Bay to the brink of the Finals. These things happen, and when you see outliers like that make sure to realize they are just that (though great writing material) in a player’s career.

5) We’re playing the Bruins!?

The important thing is to know your opponent. Know the matchups and which players hold the key. Try to stay realistic. Home ice is huge, so go to the ACC and be as loud as you possibly can. Boston you say!? Well then, you’re on your own. As a fan, I have no idea how to handle this series and I’ll probably ignore most of what’s on here. Go Leafs Go!