LeBrun: How can the Leafs escape their 0-2 hole? Wisdom of coaches who have already been there

Travis Green lived through playoff chaos as a player in Toronto and as a head coach in Vancouver.

The noise is real. This can be positive when riding. But it can backfire when things go wrong.

So yeah, he has some thoughts watching from afar as the Maple Leafs try to regroup from an 0-2 deficit against the Panthers.

“From a coaching standpoint, when you’re in the playoffs, I think it’s really important to know where your team is and decide where your team is,” Green said. Athleticism Friday. “Structurally, both teams will make adjustments from game to game. But maybe in this case, being psychologically trailing 2-0 isn’t what the Leafs expected.

“Especially when you’re in a market like Toronto, there’s going to be a lot of noise around that.”

Oh, just a little.

Green remembers playing with the Leafs in 2001-02, when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Your players feel it. They want to win. They know the importance of it,” Green said. “The mental side is so important in the playoffs. Inspiring a group to feel good about themselves is huge.

It’s a balancing act. If you’re Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe, there’s the tactical aspect, but there’s also the mental aspect – making sure the team has the right mindset going into Game 3 Sunday night in Sunrise, Florida.

“Structurally, there will always be small tweaks that you work on from game to game, and there will be areas from a coaching perspective where you know your team needs to improve,” he said. said Green. “It’s not just the losing team that does this, but the winning team as well.

“There are probably a few areas where Toronto knows they need to be better. But there’s also the psychological side, which maybe for me could be just as important or more important than this time of year and in this situation where you lose those first two home games, which you really didn’t have never imagined that to happen.

Longtime coach Paul MacLean, who spent two years as an advisor to Keefe and the Leafs coaching staff, shared that when asked what he’s seen so far during round 2: , they did not score. (Sergei Bobrovksy) was very good. It all starts with outings (in the defensive zone) – the Leafs being second on too many dropped pucks. (The) result is too much time to defend and (Florida) comes to their game and scores.

Former Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau sees a Leafs team that so far has been drawn into Panthers-style games.

“Florida is forcing the Leafs to play a physical game, and they don’t want to play a physical game,” Boudreau said Friday. “They just want to go up and down the ice and score. So they’re playing out of their comfort zone, I think, and that’s right in Florida’s comfort zone.

Boudreau remembers his days coaching the high-octane Capitals when the Flyers were trying to do that to them.

“The Flyers wanted six penalties against six penalties in one night. They were so comfortable playing that way and we weren’t,” Boudreau said. “When the Leafs run around and do the same thing as Florida, that’s not how they want to play, but they’re kind of forced to play how Florida wants them to play.”

The other thing Boudreau sees is Toronto’s lack of consistency in the game.

“They’re too erratic,” Boudreau said. “They’ll be out for five minutes and play great, then they can’t get the puck out of their own zone for five minutes, then they’ll have a couple of great shifts, then they’ll go to sleep. They don’t play with any consistency if you ask me. Or play the right way on an ongoing basis.

The Panthers managed to knock the Bruins out of their game plan at times in the first round and start again with the Leafs. I asked Keefe about it during his Friday media call. Is Florida’s forecheck the main reason?

He gave a long and thoughtful answer, which made me feel like it was really on his mind before Game 3:

“Well, yeah, their forecheck is strong,” he said. “That’s the strength of their team. It was also in the regular season. They were one of the best forechecking teams in the NHL. It’s carried over to the playoffs.

“Having said that when I watch games 1 and 2, you know, definitely game 1, I didn’t think it was that much of an issue for us. Game 2 maybe a bit more. Impacted the first goal, well sure, but there are some things we want to handle differently ourselves Didn’t do the proper reading on that On goals 2 and 3 you have to give Florida credit for staying on the hunt and staying there , but we have full control of those pucks to make better decisions. And those decisions are the ones we’ve made most of the time in the Tampa series. It hasn’t always gotten us to the neutral zone and establishing our game, that was a real challenge for us against Tampa, but you can at least take the pressure off and get yourself in good spots where you have structure around.

“The nature of some of our turnovers (in Game 2) put us in real bad times. That’s what was disappointing because that’s what we really tried to avoid, those big mistakes. And certainly Florida, with the way they play and the way they forecheck and transition maybe more importantly when they get the puck, that makes them even more dangerous.

“These are things that we’ve talked about avoiding all season, and I think we did a really good job against Tampa in that regard and that hasn’t been the case here in the two games. . This is largely why we sit in the hole we make. We know we need to be able to score more than we have. That said, with a 2-0 home lead, we should be able to win this hockey game even if it has to be 2-1. So there’s a certain management of the game there for us that I thought we’ve made huge strides in as a team that wasn’t on display here early on.

There’s a lot to digest there, but a big part of it is that Keefe feels his team needs better puck management.

And let’s be clear, Toronto’s 0-2 series deficit isn’t insurmountable.

“Every series changes, can change very quickly, which we’ve already seen happen in these playoffs with New Jersey and the Rangers,” Green said. “But there’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot of pressure for the Leafs to win the next game.

“It’s important not to focus on being 2-0 down and thinking ‘Okay, where can we be better and what did we do well?’ Make your group feel extremely confident in themselves.

And although the prevailing idea was that the Panthers, after a grueling seven-game physical streak with Boston, were happy to have two days off before Game 3 and again before Game 4 (Panthers coach Paul Maurice said it), Green also sees the downside for the Leafs.

“In this scenario, having that extra day is probably an advantage for the team losing 2-0,” Green said. “You have another day to talk to the group and cool off and let the pain in and out – and prepare for, really, they have to play their best game in the series ahead. That’s what you’re hoping for from a training standpoint.

The Leafs have shown with three road wins in Tampa that they have the guts to find that level of resilience. I would expect their best game of the playoffs on Sunday night. I don’t see a team ready to fold.

(Top photo: John E. Sokolowski/USA Today)

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