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No Battle of Ontario playoff as Toronto Maple Leafs lose to Columbus Blue Jackets in regular

James van Riemsdyk, left, of the Toronto Maple Leafs, gets tangled up with Columbus Blue Jackets' Scott Harrington during NHL action Sunday in Toronto. At right is Leafs' Mitch Marner. The Blue Jackets were 3 2 winners.

Even if the Leafs do as much, their chances of upsetting the Presidents' Trophy champion in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs are not good. The Capitals have had more than their fair share of playoff replica Van bracelet yellow gold misery in recent years, and that the Cup has eluded the grasp of Alex Ovechkin eats at the Russian superstar.

Babcock knows as much.

"They are big, they are strong, they are fast, they have been beaten a number of times in the playoffs, so they are battle tested to say the least," Babcock said, "and they are as hungry as any team in the NHL and playing as good. It should be fun."

The Leafs drew the Capitals after losing 3 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday night, and gone was a chance to rekindle the Battle of Ontario with the Ottawa Senators.

It looked good for the Leafs through the middle of the game, as a pair of goals by James van Riemsdyk staked Toronto to a 2 0 lead. The Leafs, however, never did have the consistent energy that Babcock thought he would see, and Columbus reeled off three goals by the end of the second, getting the winner from Cam Atkinson while shorthanded.

There was some positive news on Sunday. Babcock said goaltender Frederik Andersen was not experiencing concussion symptoms and will start in Game 1 on Thursday in Washington. And defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who suffered an upper body injury against Columbus, is expected to be in the Toronto lineup for the opener.

The Leafs will try to build off the 12 5 1 run to finish the regular season with 95 points, securing the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Caps ended with 118 points, including a 32 7 2 record on home ice.

Daunting? Yes. But the Leafs don't think the task is impossible.

"The playoffs are not going to be easy no matter how you skin the cat," Leafs defenceman and former Capital Connor Carrick said.

"So let's go to work. We're going to go into someone's building and try to give them hell.

"It's a big year for them, a lot on the line. I know teams talk about opportunities and windows and all that, and this looks like some prime years for some of their better players so there is a lot of pressure on them to come out."

Said Jake Gardiner: "You gotta beat the best at some point so might as well do it in the first round."

Inexperience could be a large factor for the Leafs to overcome, but they've done that to an extent already. None of the rookies, not Calder Trophy favourite Auston Matthews or William Nylander or Mitch Marner or the others, were crushed by the weight of expectations in the past several weeks with a playoff spot in their sights.

If that had occurred, the club would be gathering at the ACC on Monday to clean out their lockers.

Instead, the players were granted the last true day off they will enjoy in a while.

"A lot of those games (in the past month) were tight," Babcock said. "I thought we had some hiccups for sure and yet we still found ways to win games and give ourselves a chance. We are excited to say the least.

"Let's get ready for Game 1. We like our team. music festival bubble burst?The 2017 Pemberton Music Festival was cancelled this week after organizers went bankrupt, leavingthousands.

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