Many analysts credit the Toronto Maple Leafs'Â run for a playoff spot to the goaltending of James Reimer. While he has no doubt been a key contributor, much of the credit has to be distributed to Phil Kessel, who is suddenly tied for the team lead in points and ranks first in goals with 27.
Yes, "poor Kessel," the one who was picked last at the All-Star Game and had 25-goal man Alexander Ovechkin snap a photo of him as he sat alone and made the best of an awkward situation.
Whether it's what happened in Carolina, the hunt for a playoff spot or simply Kessel turning itÂ on at the right time, much of the Leafs' playoff hopes hinge on its 23-year-old sniper.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are now four points removed from eight placeÂ and five points from seventhÂ in the Eastern Conference.
Here's some quick thoughts on tonight's tilt against the Penguins:
As rumors swirl regarding Tomas Kaberle's future in Toronto, the blueprint general manager Brian Burke has imprinted for the Toronto Maple Leafs is anything but definitive---but that doesn't make it any less effective.
With the departures of Francois Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg, Burke has managed to not only add some prospects to the cupboard, but relieve some cap space for acquisitions via trade and/or free agency . If Burke and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli reach an agreement and Kaberle decides to waive his no-trade clause, the Leafs would free even more cap space assuming the team doesn't acquire a bloated contract in return---which Burke is apparently willing. Considering Kaberle isÂ eligibleÂ for free agency this summer, it's hard to envision a lucrative return from the Bruins for his services. That's not to say the Leafs won't be able to acquire some important building blocks moving forward, but Kaberle won't net an impact player of such caliber as, say, Jeff Carter.
As the February 28 trade deadline approaches, the yearly tradition of pondering Tomas Kaberle's future with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been a hot topic in the rumor mill, but there's another dilemma facing general manager Brian Burke.
And that's whether to retain the services of 24-year-old forward, Kris Versteeg.
Considering the Leafs have an all-time record of 25-56-6-2 in Buffalo, it's not exactly earth-shattering that the club struggled to contain its Northeast rivals on the scoresheet.
On an unfortunate Saturday night off of Leafs hockey, the February 28 Trade Deadline enters my mind as I ponder how Brian Burke will fast-track Toronto to the playoffs.
He has once again cemented his stance to acquire players that will help the team immediately. His reluctance to stockpile draft picks might be concerning, but just how far are the Leafs from post-season berth? Well, any critic can point to numerous issues that have plagued the team's chances, most notably the scoring woes and special teams, but the most pressing need has to be a first-line center to feed Phil Kessel the puck (not to mention to add some size to the top-six unit).
I can't help but cringe at Brian Burke's reasoning for the call-up:
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue its descent to the Eastern Conference basement. Now one loss shy from matching its eight-game losing steak of last season, which resulted in a 29th place finish, the Leafs are a carcass for the hockey world to tear apart.
Fire this guy, trade this guy, call-up this guy, demote this guy or put this guy on a different line... we've heard it all from the analysts. Now I want to hear what the Leafs' faithful have to say about their team's free-fallÂ in the standings.
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue its downward spiral to the National Hockey League basement after a frustrating loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight---not to mention increasing the likelihood that they may relinquish another top-five draft pick to the Boston Bruins.
No, I'm not heading to the nearest bunker yelling that the sky is falling (although I may just welcome the idea) but after losing six-straight games, it's time to at least be concerned. And I don't care about the four-game winning streak because clearly the Leafs were playing above its capabilities. To be fair, the goaltending and defense have upgraded considerably compared to previous seasons, but the offense has been downright abysmal.
Let's get right to it with some thoughts on the game:
- Although most of my hair was pulled out in frustration, the Leafs displayed a lot of heart tonight and they deserve credit.Â It's hard to remember the last time the Leafs came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period, but it'sÂ encouraging they managed without captain Dion Phaneuf.
Some of the storylines heading into tonight's game include Sean Avery (surprise, surprise), Kris Versteeg and Dion Phaneuf.
Although Burke didn't reveal specifics, one would assume the Leafs are in the market for a big center. To be fair, Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski provide decent production down the middle, but neither are sure choices for number one center in the long-term at this stage.