4 Must-Haves For Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Success

Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Five
Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Five / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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A Team Focus On Defense

Things looked bad for the Toronto Maple Leafs after losing to the Ottawa Senators on February 10.  Morgan Rielly took offense to Senator rookie Ridly Greig’s slapshot empty net goal, and ended up with a 5 game suspension.

Given Toronto’s already depleted blue line, expectations were low with the team’s best defender sitting out.  Yet somehow the Leafs won all 5 games of Rielly’s absence.  Why?  It seems that the team’s collective conscience realized that if they didn’t buckle down and play solid team defense, they would likely get blown out and embarrassed.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are now 19-2-1 without Rielly in the lineup.  Similarly, they are 35-19-2 without Auston Matthews.

The team really does play better defense when players know top guys are missing.  The forwards backcheck and the defense make the smart, simple play. The challenge is to play that way when everyone is healthy.

This falls on coach Sheldon Keefe to get the message of team accountability through to his players as a group, but also to the stars that they need to dial back the risky spin moves and blind passes that often end in highlight goals, but also lead to untimely giveaways.

Patience will lead to plenty of scoring opportunities for the best players without having to resort to the fancy stuff.