Young Maple Leafs now face ultimate challenge: The Washington Capitals

The Edmonton Oilers will nearly certainly face the San Jose Sharks and with home-ice advantage. The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have home ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mike Babcock promised "pain" when he was hired as coach in May 2015, but that pain was really short-lived.

"No space. Zero. Battle for every inch of ice, from the opening faceoff to the end", said Babcock, who's coached 144 playoff games in the National Hockey League. "You step up there, you've got to clear your mind and hit the ball". "Once you get in, anything can happen. It's still a back-to-back so prepare and play hard".

If the Leafs win or lose in overtime or a shootout tomorrow, the Leafs leap into 3rd in the Atlantic; if they lose in regulation, the Bruins get 3rd in the Atlantic. A victory would have secured that post-season ticket. He returned to a full practice on Friday and is expected to play in one of the team's last two regular-season games.

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We were tested mentally and we found a response to win the game. "It didn't matter how we won". Wenger admitted he feared the worst when Middlesbrough grabbed their equaliser.

The club discussed the need to play with more "confidence and poise" against the Penguins, elements that were mostly missing against the Lightning.

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs, 68 points; Patrik Laine, Jets, 53 points; Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets, 36 points; Matt Murray, Penguins, 21; Mitchell Marner, Maple Leafs, 14 points; Matthew Tkachuk, Flames, 10 points; William Nylander, Maple Leafs, 7 points; Brady Skjei, New York Rangers, 1 point. "They were on top of us and we didn't an answer for it". The 27-year-old popped off the left sideboards with the puck and then beat Korpisalo. Andersen's play hasn't been too strong as of late, which may lead to a goaltending problem for Babcock if things go south quickly against the high-powered Capitals. "The last few games, with points being so important, I think we've played the right way and we just want to make sure we finish off the last couple games the same way here".

Mitch Marner shined at the Memorial Cup previous year and world junior championships before that.

None compare to the National Hockey League stage though, especially at this point in the year when the intensity dials up and every little play seems to matter.

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Only when the Leafs got a power play did their momentum stall. Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, and Jake Gardiner have all logged exactly one playoff series in the National Hockey League - that infamous seven-game affair against Boston in 2013. I think it'll be a real great series between two really quality clubs.

But whatever momentum Toronto gained was dashed when the Penguins scored on a power play of their own, Crosby notching his NHL-leading 44th goal of the year.

This is the first time the Leafs have clinched a playoff berth in an 82-game season since 2003-04. "What I would suggest is watching the hunting channel".

"We made it way harder than we should", Babcock said of Thursday's effort, as both injury-mauled Tampa and the New York Islanders closed to within three points for what's now the last undecided playoff spot in the NHL's two conferences. "You've got to earn your way in and that's what it's all about". And that's what it is all about, is having these opportunities to grow your game in moments that matter. Beyond just producing, that trio will need to be tighter defensively in the postseason - they give up the most goals of any regular line combination for Toronto (2.88 goals-against per 60 minutes).

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