Saturday, March 5, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs Looking Like Playoff Contenders Down the Stretch

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

The Toronto Maple Leafs climbed to within three points of the eighth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes and within one point of the ninth-seeded Buffalo Sabres with an impressive win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia last night.
A lot is being said of the Leafs' current success that has seen them go a combined 16-8-5 since the turn of the year and a run of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.

One of the biggest secrets to the team's success as of late has to be the emergence of Phil Kessel. The Leafs forward has exhibited a great deal of "truculence" in regard to his style of play than he has at almost any time in his career to date.

He's even throwing the odd check.
Phil Kessel isn't the only one contributing, though. Nikolai Kullemin, who is arguably one the most complete players in the league right now, is contributing on a regular basis and has five points in his last five games.
Though he has only scored three goals in the last ten games, Mikhail Grabovski has also scored five points in the last five games.

Clarke MacArthur, who despite having a bit of a scoring slump as well, has chipped in with four points in the last five games. Even Dion Phaneuf, who had spent the better part of the season trying really hard to find his game, has shown glimpses of the potential that Leafs fans and management were hoping for by netting two goals and five points in the last five games.

Other players who are suddenly in the mix offensively include Tyler Bozak and Colby "The Cheese" Armstrong—each with four points in the last five games.
Tyler Bozak, who is often maligned due to his lack of offense, has regained his early season form in the face off circle, and is tied for sixth in the league among centers who have played a similar amount of games with a 54.6 percent success rate.

Add the fact that Ron Wilson has started to use him somewhat on the penalty kill, and Bozak's lack of offense doesn't seem so bad (although, in his NHL career, he earns a respectable point every two games).

Then, of course, there is the goaltending of James "Optimus Reim" Reimer.
With 17 games left, the safe assumption is that Reimer will get the bulk of the starts. It isn't a stretch to say that if the team continues at the pace they are on, Reimer will get 20-plus wins. Given that his first start was the team's 33rd game of the season, that's pretty spectacular.

It is true that the Toronto Maple Leafs are still on the outside looking in; however, winning is contagious.

Brian Burke recently expressed concern about making it to the postseason just to "get your ass kicked in the first round." If the postseason started tomorrow with the Leafs in, I wouldn't count them out against anyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment