Babcock: Young Leafs will discover what playoff hockey is in a hurry

Tom Szczerbowski / USA Today Sports

A loss to Columbus in the final game of the regular season has dimmed Toronto's playoff outlook considerably.

Whereas a single point would have set up a first-round series with the Ottawa Senators, the Maple Leafs will now go head-to-head with the Washington Capitals, who enter the postseason as the best team in the NHL and with the most serious of Stanley Cup aspirations.

It'll serve as a tough test for the young club, admits head coach Mike Babcock.

"We're going to find out what playoff hockey is in a hurry," Babcock said Sunday, per Mark Masters of TSN. "I'll do my best the next couple days to explain what's going to happen. They're not going to believe me."

Still, that Toronto is in this position after a 30th-place finish a year ago is wildly encouraging.

Babcock also lauded the addition of veteran Brian Boyle late in the season, without whom the Maple Leafs may not have advanced. His experience will be relied upon heavily for as long as this run lasts.

Toronto faces the possibility of beginning the playoffs without Nikita Zaitsev, but Babcock said he's not concerned about an upper-body injury that forced the defenseman to make an early exit Sunday.

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Babcock: Young Leafs will discover what playoff hockey is in a hurry
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