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Boston Bruins right wing Justin Brazeau, right, looks to pass as he gets by Toronto Maple Leafs center Bobby McMann at TD Garden in Boston, on March 7.Winslow Townson/Reuters

After getting run over in their last four games of the regular season, the Maple Leafs had these words of warning for their next victimizers.

Coach Sheldon Keefe: “Now that we have known who it is, we’ll do all that we can to prepare for it.”

Defenceman Mark Giordano: “They don’t give you much.”

Former Bruin Tyler Bertuzzi, after first saying, “I don’t know” when asked what makes Boston so good: “They play good as a team, good goaltending … they have great fans … a lot of great players, a lot of depth.”

In other words, everything. Everything makes them good.

The Leafs are going to lose to the Boston Bruins. Accept it. The Leafs have. Just look at them. Better yet – listen to them. Not their words. Their tone.

If this team had to pick a new motto right now, it would be ‘We who are about to die salute you.’

No games have been played, but the Leafs are already falling back into their own zone. It’s not that they don’t want to seem cocky. It’s that they’re terrified of showing any sort of self-confidence.

You can see that in their eyes, particularly Keefe’s. He knows that each word out of his mouth from now on can and will be put into evidence against him if the Leafs-Bruins series goes the way everyone expects it to.

Try to imagine a Leaf – anyone employed by the team – coming out right now and saying, ‘I like our chances.’

Because that guy is already thinking about the Sun’s front page in 10 days’ time, the one that will have him photoshopped onto a Wild West ‘Wanted’ poster with a banner headline that reads: ‘HE LIKED HIS CHANCES.’

It should be the Bruins who are worried. After a season spent being built up as The Greatest Hockey Team Ever®, they’re the ones who got humiliated in the first round of the playoffs last year. They’re the ones who lost their talismanic captain. They’re the ones who had the Atlantic in their pocket and got tangled in ticker tape at the end. They’re the ones who have Brad Marchand, and who knows what outrages he’s capable of.

But here’s a guy you’d forgive for being more anxious than most, Boston goalie Linus Ullmark, on the playoffs: “Everything becomes more fun. I’m very excited about what’s to come.”

In Boston, the playoffs are a chance to have fun and become part of the legend.

In Toronto, they’re a chance to become the next Jake Gardiner.

In the end, someone must take all the blame. They won’t deserve it (as Gardiner didn’t), but they’re going to get it anyway.

The contest to spot the next Gardiner has already begun. It’s most likely to happen on the ice, but likelihood No. 2 is whenever you step in front of a microphone.

Hence, that ‘stray dog’s first-day-in-the-shelter’ look the Leafs get around the eyes whenever the ‘record’ light goes on. You may just be asking a question. They are fighting for their professional lives.

This is the Leafs’ perpetual trap. They can’t act like they’re good, for fear that they will be bad. Because they don’t act like they’re good, they aren’t.

The problem isn’t personnel, tactics or even luck (though those are problems). It’s approach. The Leafs carry themselves like a team preparing to lose.

This narrative has already begun. If you go anywhere online where the Leafs are discussed right now, turn your volume off first. The sound of so many teeth gnashing at once can be jarring.

In those spaces, some are already convinced Boston tanked its last game so that it could avoid Tampa and get Toronto instead.

Can you picture a world in which a single person would accuse the Leafs of tanking to get Boston? Me neither.

Despite doing everything short of throwing the puck at the net, Auston Matthews’s inability to score his 70th goal plays into this theme of dissipation. For weeks, all anybody talked about was 70. How does it end? In disappointment. In downbeat praise like this from Keefe: “Not meant to be. That’s okay.”

Through a magic only they possess, the Leafs have taken one of the great seasons in club history and transformed it into evidence that nothing ever goes right.

Going into Saturday night, the Bruins will have a game plan and the Leafs will have a series of retrenching positions. If they score first, they can’t blow it. Nothing would be worse than that.

If the Bruins score first, they can’t get buried. That would be worse.

If it’s tied late, the winning goal can’t be down to a one-on-one open-ice mistake. That’s Gardiner territory.

Boston can lose the first game and recover. For the Leafs, the losses are the easy part. It’s the off-day after a loss when they take a real beating. Once the questions veer into ‘How do you come back from …’, the avalanche has already begun. It ends with Toronto buried again.

Some day, the Leafs will overcome their Eeyore mentality. Some day, they will be the Bruins – a team that talks and sounds and looks as though it’s comfortable in its own skin.

But every year they aren’t, it gets harder to envision how they get there. Beating Boston would be an enormous step in that direction.

But you don’t have to look or listen to them to know they are not prepped for that possibility. Just look and listen to yourself. Do you think they’re going to win? Forget whether it’s likely. Do you think it’s even remotely possible?

If you don’t think that – you, a true believer, who is willing to forgive them anything, and thinks only the best of them – it’s because what you really believe is what the Leafs are telling you right now, in a hundred small ways, just not in words.

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