Leafs must prove epic playoff collapse in past | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaLeafs must prove epic playoff collapse in past

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 | 01:28 PM

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Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, left, took the team's Game 7, first-round loss to the Bruins hard, a game in which Toronto blew a 4-1 lead in the last half of the third period. Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, left, took the team's Game 7, first-round loss to the Bruins hard, a game in which Toronto blew a 4-1 lead in the last half of the third period. "That hockey game will haunt me until the day I die," he tweeted afterwards. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have to demonstrate that they are over the lingering effects of their epic collapse last spring, not just when the regular season opens Oct. 1, but when the playoffs roll around in the spring.

The Toronto Maple Leafs say they have moved on from their epic Game 7 meltdown in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the eventual conference-champion Boston Bruins.

But they still have to go out and prove that is the case, not just when the regular season opens its door on Oct. 1, but when the playoffs roll around in the spring.

After all, the Maple Leafs put up a spectacular record of 20-2-1 when leading after two periods last regular season. Only the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks were better at 26-1-2.

Toronto even held its leads after two periods to score wins in Games 2 and 5 against Boston, only to blow a 4-1 lead they had built with 10 minutes 42 seconds remaining in regulation.

The horrific feeling from the 5-4 loss in overtime prompted Maple Leafs veteran left-winger Joffrey Lupul to post afterwards on his Twitter account: "That hockey game will haunt me until the day I die ..."

Lupul missed Thursday's first day of on-ice sessions with back spasms, an ailment that is not considered serious but will keep him out day to day. He was not made available to talk to reporters about whether the tragic defeat still haunts him.

It likely does. After he enjoyed a visit to France for the Cannes Film Festival, took in the music festival Bonnaroo as a reporter and modeled for ESPN's The Magazine body issue, Lupul was asked about that Game 7 loss later in the summer.

"That's a game that you will never shake off," he told mapleleafs.com. "If we win the Stanley Cup next year I will still feel that was a game and an opportunity I will not forget. It's not something you get over but it's something our team should look to, gain knowledge from and grow from."

Time to move on

Not all Maple Leafs took the meltdown in Beantown as hard as Lupul. That's the beauty of being an elite-level athlete. The best in the business have that trait to push on and overcome after an unkind game or moment.

"People seem to forget how hard it is to win in this league," Maple Leafs forward James van Riemskyk said. "When you have a chance and you don't get that win it eats at you a little bit. You use the losses as motivation the next season.

"I couldn't give you an exact time frame when I got over it. You guys will probably keep reminding us about it, but once the puck drops on the season we'll forget about it."

New forward David Bolland, who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for the Blackhawks 2 ½ months ago, remarked his old team in Chicago experienced the thrill of ultimate victory because they learned from the agony of defeat.

In Bolland's first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Blackhawks in 2009, a young Chicago team beat the Calgary Flames in six games in the first round and rolled into the West final after a mini upset over the Vancouver Canucks, also in six games.

But against the Detroit Red Wings in the West final, the Blackhawks were wiped out by the reigning Stanley Cup champions in five games. Three of those contests went into OT, but the devastating blow came in Game 4 at the United Center. The Blackhawks had an opportunity to even the series at 2-2 at home, but they were blown out 6-1 by the Red Wings.

"Every championship team goes through adversity from time to time," said Bolland, whose Blackhawks rebounded the following season to win the Stanley Cup. "It happened to us in Chicago. Sure it wasn't exactly the same. But we were devastated to lose in the Western Conference final to Detroit.

"We had a great team. We were playing so well and then all of sudden let it go. We were young, but so close to get to the final. It hurt, but we used it as a learning step to build on. It makes you look forward to the next year to build on."

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