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Leafs must avoid letdown in Florida

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Matt Akler

Following the playoff atmosphere of two rough-and-tumble games against New Jersey, the Leafs will have relatively sedate meetings with Florida and Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

The Panthers and Lightning are clearly not the Devils and for the Leafs that could be a good thing or a bad thing.

On the good side of the ledger is the fact that the two NHL teams in the Sunshine State are languishing near the basement of the league standings and it could be an excellent opportunity for Toronto to pick up four points before a clash on Saturday with division rival Ottawa who is rising in the standings.

Looking at the bad side, the emotions of battling a playoff adversary will be absent and the team could potentially find itself with a letdown after the intensity of the home-and-home series with New Jersey.

"Yes, that's possible, but those games are a few days away and I'm not sure it will have the same intensity," Curtis Joseph said following Saturday's 1-1 tie with the Devils. "That (letdown) is what we'll have to guard against for sure."

Hockey is an emotional game and remaining focused on the task at hand, while difficult over a long 82-game season, is important and it is what distinguishes the top teams from those a tier below. There were too many nights last season when the Leafs seemed to be looking ahead on their schedule. Consequently, the club only clinched a playoff spot on the penultimate game of the regular season.

"Generally, it's not talent, it's all those other things that determine whether you move on or don't," explained head coach Pat Quinn. "There are things we have to learn that are situational. That is our goal as coaches and should be as players."

Further, Quinn described what his squad needs to do in order to avoid a drop from the charged intensity level that was clearly evident in the last two games.

"That's where you try to bring your professionalism and work on your craft with pride. You might not be able to bring the emotion, but you should take pride in how you do your craft."

The Leafs will have the opportunity to demonstrate that pride this week.
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