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Leafs’ collapse will haunt Lupul until the day he dies

May 14, 2013, 2:46 PM EDT

Which tends to happen when your team has a 4-1 lead halfway through the third period of Game 7, then blows it.

Especially when your team was making its first playoff appearance since 2004, and was playing a Boston side that had absolutely dominated it the past few years.

The question now is, will last night’s experience hurt the Leafs or help them? Some teams build on painful losses (1984 Oilers, 2009 Penguins); others have more trouble recovering psychologically.

Disappointment aside, there were a lot of good things Toronto can take from that series. James Reimer was mostly fantastic in goal. Jake Gardiner was a whirlwind on defense. The Leafs as a whole showed great team speed.

Toronto also has youth on its side. Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, Gardiner, and Reimer are all under 30.

What’s not clear is if they have a “great” player — the kind that can lead them to a Stanley Cup. A top-line center is something general manager Dave Nonis desperately needs to acquire, but that’s easier said than done. Even if Tyler Bozak re-signs, asking him to fill that role is a lot to ask of the undrafted 27-year-old.

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