How much playoff experience do you need before you adjust to the added pressure and challenges that come with postseason hockey? Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis is hoping the answer is one game.
“Our expectation is that — and this isn’t a knock on them in Game 1 — but for this one (Saturday’s Game 2), they will be more prepared,” Nonis said in a Toronto Sun report. “I think if you look at the number of players that we had in the lineup that didn’t have any NHL playoff experience, and we are playing a team that was hoisting the Cup less than 24 months ago. That, to me, was a significant difference.
“(The Bruins) understood the challenges of playoff hockey and we had a hard time at certain points in the game dealing with those challenges. Now, even though it’s only one game, you’ve got to find a way to learn from those experiences and get through them.”
Any hope that the Maple Leafs could capitalize on the Boston Bruins’ fatigue slipped away on Wednesday. Although James van Riemsdyk, who as a former Philadelphia Flyers forward was playing in his 40th postseason contest, got the Leafs on the board first, Boston earned a commanding 4-1 victory.
“We need to see improvement from three-quarters of our roster, that’s all there is to it,” Nonis said.
“It’s not that they’re not capable, because we’ve seen them do it. Now the stage is bigger, the pressure is raised. We need to see them react in a positive manner.”
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs might have another player make his NHL debut tonight. 22-year-old defenseman Jake Gardiner is a candidate to be inserted into the lineup and Ryan O’Byrne, who has been in 19 playoff contests, is another possibility.
“I would suggest maybe one or both of them will play,” Maple Leafs oach Randy Carlyle told the Leafs’ website. He plans to make other adjustments too. We’ll see if they’re enough to split the series.