Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs; Suddenly in the Hunt With Four Wins in Five Games


This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributor to Bleacher Report.
Don't look now but the Toronto Maple Leafs are suddenly in the hunt with four wins in their last five games.

Seven points behind the current eighth place Carolina Hurricanes is definitely not something most prognosticators would have been talking about midway through November on the heels of a stretch that saw the Leafs earn only one win in eleven tries.

But, there it is in black and white. On the heels of yet another back to back set of games, (the fifth set they have played since January 6), the Leafs have in fact won four of their last five and have a record of 7-3 in back to back games in the new year.

Since the turn of the new year, the Leafs have gone 11-7 and goaltender James Reimer continues to be much of the story.

After going through a drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, Reimer rebounded with a solid 31 save performance versus the New York Islanders.

With Reimer's bounce back and the issue of Kessel vs Wilson settled - at least for the time being - all looks rosy for Leafs Nation right now.

Darryl Boyce is having a very good stint with the big club as well. Since being called up he's scored three goals and added six assists for a total of nine points in 19 games.

Boyce has also shown a great deal of character. After suffering a broken nose last Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, he returned to play a mere two nights later vs the Buffalo Sabres wearing a full face shield.

He tweeted a picture of the injury and it was not pretty. The photo is definitely not for weak stomachs.

Coach Ron Wilson did some digging after the whole Phil Kessel debacle and discovered that most of the goals Kessel had scored in Boston had occured with two left handed players as line mates. Wilson consequently put Kessel on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin and the move has paid immediate dividends.

Kessel has played with Grabo and Kulli for five periods and though he hasn't found the back of the net so far, he is a plus three in that time and scored an assist against the Islanders.

After seeing his play of late, including against the Islanders, it would be a genuine shame to see Tomas Kaberle in another jersey. If there is any justice at all he will remain a Leaf, though it would likely mean he will have to resign for the same type of money.

Time will tell whether the Toronto Maple Leafs can hold it together long enough this season to make a genuine push for the playoffs. But being only seven points out with 29 games to go is certainly a step in the right direction.


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