I guess that’s my central question for today, after watching the Leafs take on one of the elite teams in the East twice in the past 72 hours. The results were certainly encouraging, a 3-2 win at home Saturday night (albeit on the back of only 13 shots on net) and a return 3-2 shoot-out loss in Boston Monday night.
I’m pulling my thoughts together after this back-to-back set to with an old rival, but a couple of questions for you to think on and perhaps comment on here:
- How did you see Reimer’s game the last two nights against a good foe? (I liked it a lot—and I will not criticize him for losing in a shootout…I like that he helped get us three points out of four. Did anyone really expect that?)
- What did you think of Kessel’s game against the Bruins in these two contests?
- Is there a more dangerous Maple Leaf right now than Kadri?
- Has anyone seen van Riemsdyk lately?
- Who, to you, has really stepped up the level of their play for the Leafs over the past few games—which was a really important stretch for the club?
I’ll keep most of my observations for another post this week, but I thought Lupul was pushing the play. Kostka stepped back into the lineup, played more than 21 minutes and was just fine. I didn’t like Gardiner on the second goal when Doug Hamilton too easily outworked him for the puck behind the Leaf net and set up Bergeron—while Phaneuf kind of stood there. However, the captain was feisty and involved all night and Gardiner made a heck of a stick check to tie up Marchand late in overtime, after earlier assisting on a big Leaf goal.
Somehow I think we’re not seeing the Bruins at their best, a lot of their “A” players seem to be struggling, but that said, they’ve had their challenges in recent times. Maybe this is what they are—and if so, that means they are beat-able. (I know, it's "just" the regular-season...)
My "answer" to the question I posed above? I'm not suggesting this is a Cup year for the Leafs. Not at all. It has been, as I've said many times, a season for Carlyle to try things. But I have also said here that for me, there simply aren't many, if any, Eastern Conference teams that will be "unbeatable" in the playoffs. So could Toronto take out...say...the Bruins?
Two years ago I would not have even considered the question. A year ago I would have simply shook my head quietly.
Right now? Well, those who know me also know I'm not a predictions guy. But I will say this: Boston has flaws. Yes, I expect them to play tougher (and better) in the playoffs. But funny things can happen in the spring, especially when you're the team with zero expectations.