What a heart-breaker that was.
After some excellent chances from the top-line and Kadri, and the amazing stops from Reimer, the Leafs‘ shootout woes continued as the Norwegian Hobbit sealed their fate by beating Reimer through the 5-hole. Some positives can be gleaned from this loss, including a perfect 3-0 PK and a solid performance from their goaltending. Special teams and solid netminding – two instrumental tools required to survive in the playoffs. I’m going to say that even with last night’s loss, the Leafs looked like a hungry playoff team and went toe-to-toe with the Rangers, who in my opinion, are one of the most dangerous sleepers if they make the playoffs.
After receiving some positive feedback from last week’s post-trade deadline roundtable, I decided again to reach out to our writers and see if they’d be willing to share their thoughts for this week’s roundtable. Of course the affable and congenial gentlemen of MLHS were happy to oblige. Alright, enough with the Shakespearean crap, let’s get on with this week’s topics: Playoffs.
Confidence in goaltending tandem
“I don’t have the confidence that these two can win the Leafs the Cup this year, but I have the confidence that they won’t be the problem for the Leafs. I actually think Reimer might be able to steal them a game or two.” -Anthony Petrielli (@APetrielli)
“I’m confident that this is the necessary next step in his [Reimer's] development. The Leafs management is probably eagerly awaiting this opportunity to see just what they have in [him].” -Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)
“Reimer is pretty even keel as far as his mental makeup goes so that should serve him well in the post-season. I’d prefer a veteran backup” -Mislav Jantoljak (@Xterratu)
Who do you want in the 1st round?
“You can’t write a better sports narrative than for the Maple Leafs to return to the playoffs against their ancestral rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. After years of postseason solitude, nothing could be more exciting than the battle of the two solitudes come May.” -Michael
-”I don’t care if it’s the Habs or the Bruins, but one of these two. No easy games in the playoffs and both would present a great series to watch. As a fan or player, I don’t think shying away from these match-ups is good. You have to beat or at least measure yourself against rivals and top teams (unfortunately, the Habs have been both this season). -Mislav
” I’d take my chances with Phaneuf vs. Ovechkin and think the Leafs might even have the goalie advantage there. That all said, I’d love to see Leafs-Habs because the atmospheres would be amazing and I’d be interested to see the Leafs three line attack match up against the deep Habs defense.” -Anthony
“In a rare show of optimism, I think the Leafs are capable of taking 4 out of 7 against any possible opponent. Let’s say Montreal because of the history.” -Jon
Who DON’T you want in the 1st round?
“I don’t think the Bruins are a good matchup for the Leafs. In particular, Chara vs. Kessel works to Boston’s favour plus they have three good lines to roll against one good Leafs D pairing.” -Anthony
“ I’d be disappointed if the Leafs slide down to 8th and face the Penguins.” -Jon
“Obvious answer would be the B’s with Bergeron in the lineup, but I’m not taking it. To me, playoffs are slightly more about your team and what you can get out of your players on a nightly basis than they are about opponents.” -Mislav
“If for whatever reason the Leafs drop to sixth in the conference, I’m less than confident that they could handle the Washington Capitals in a best-of-seven situation. If Ovie, a noted Leaf killer, continues [his] torrid pace and if Braden Holtby can repeat his stellar performance from last playoff season (1.95 GAA, .935 SV% in 14 games played), I could see the Leafs getting rolled in four.” -Michael
Who’s the sleeper in the playoffs?
“If Pittsburgh plays the Rangers I could easily see the Rangers upsetting them because Fleury is awful, and then knocking off someone else in the next round? Do the Rangers count as a sleeper when everyone picked them for the Finals at the beginning of the season?” -Jon
“San Jose. Dwindling expectations might be a kick in the rear end Joe and the other veterans need to surprise. Niemi can carry the load.” -Mislav
“The New York Rangers ability to hold the Leafs shotless for the final 16:38 minutes of the second period last night shows just how stingy a defense the team can play. The win last night solidified their place in the Eastern Conference, and they are my bet to wreak havoc in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.” -Michael
“In the West it’s St. Louis for me, because Bouwmeester gives them another horse defensively and they have an extremely deep team…. In the East it’s obviously the Rangers. They still have one of the best three goalies in hockey for my money and if they are playing Pittsburgh without Crosby and Neal, well, it’s not that hard to see them advancing and going from there.” -Anthony
Is Dion Phaneuf in the Norris conversation?
“He might be, but he’s not on my top 3 list. Suter, Letang, Beauchemin. Sheldon Souray had an excellent year, Subban is immense offensively” -Mislav
“I think he’s in the conversation, but I’m not sure if he’s an official candidate. Chara and Suter would be my top two candidates right now…. I like Kronwall’s year a lot considering there is no Lidstrom and Detroit is kind of going through a transition but still competing. But the bottom line with Phaneuf is that he’s had to deal with three partners this year, two of which aren’t very good, but is still top 10 in points for a D-man, and TOI, while playing against the other team’s best every single night. -Anthony
“According to www.behindthenet.ca, Phaneuf regularly plays against the third toughest competition among defensemen with more than 20 games played. As further illustration to the difficulty of his minutes, and his versatility as a defender, he logs over three minutes of ice per night on the power play and on the penalty kill. That the Leafs have a positive goal differential is in no small part resultant of the aggressive, two-way play of the Leaf captain.” -Michael
“Should he be? Probably. The guy has played against the toughest competition and has been one of the top scoring defensemen in the league. Will he be? Nope. For all the media focus on the Leafs, there is a huge blind-spot towards the club when it comes to award voting.” -Jon
As the Leafs inch closer to their first playoff berth since the 2003-2004 campaign, this is truly an incredible time to be a Leafs fan. Judging from the responses I got to this week’s roundtable topics, a couple things are becoming clearer. Goaltending still remains a question mark for the team, and rightly so, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of regular-season Reimer so far and now it’s time to see what he brings in playoff mode. If anything, it will be an excellent developmental opportunity for him, and a great evaluative opportunity for the Leafs brass. There are also a lot of fans calling for a Leafs and Habs first round match-up. Just the thought of that makes my fan senses tingle. Boston appears to be the team no one wants to face and the Rangers are getting a lot of mentions as a team others should be weary of. At the end of the day, no matter the opponent, the playoffs are going to be a special time for us all.
-Aaron Chan (@Mapleleafmuse)
National Post: Leafs are Finally Good Enough - Bruce Arthur jumps on-board.
Toronto Star: Maple Leaf’s Depth Helps Drive Team Towards Playoffs - Kevin McGran looks at roster depths’ contribution to team success.
Hope in the Big Smoke: Out of Nowhere – Some Mark Fraser love with this piece.
Maple Leaf Musings: Are You Better than Bob McKenzie - McKenzie agreed with me, and so should you…
VLM: Leaf Fans Struggling to Cope with Success - Michael Langlois with a psychoanalysis of Leafs Nation
We Want a Cup: Leafs, Pro Sports in Toronto on the Ups - Scott Wheeler with a look at the rebirth of sports in Toronto