Pierre Lebrun of had an insightful in-depth chat with Wayne Gretzky on the growth of this Maple Leafs team and the work of head coach Randy Carlyle. Below are some worthwhile excerpts:

On the Leafs playoff performance so far:

“They’re up against a really good opponent, a team that’s just two years removed from winning the Cup, but any time you can win a Game 5 in that situation against a team of that caliber, obviously you’ve got character and it builds even more character,” Wayne Gretzky told over the phone Saturday. “They’re legit. They’re playing on high emotion right now.”

On coach Randy Carlyle:

“It’s about believing in your system. The system starts with the head coach,” Gretzky said. “He’s got tremendous credibility after winning a Stanley Cup himself [2007 in Anaheim]. It’s not a question of players saying, ‘Are we sure he knows what he’s doing?’ Because they’re absolutely positive he knows what he’s doing. The credibility starts right there with the coach.”

On James Reimer:

“There was so much talk throughout the hockey world wondering if their goaltending was strong enough to get through the season and get into the playoffs,” Gretzky said. “I think their goaltender has answered that question extremely well. It’s a hard city for anyone to play in, but it’s really tough for a goaltender. I think Reimer has been tremendous. When the players have a strong belief in their goaltender, that goes a long way. I know, as good as we were in 1993 [with the Kings], we really believed in Kelly Hrudey. He was going to make the big save whether it was 2-2 or 4-4; he wasn’t going to let the next goal in. I feel like there’s a real sense in that locker room now in Toronto.”

On the team’s learning experience in this playoff run:

“You know, they’re still young and they’re still learning,” Gretzky said. “This is how you learn, by getting a chance to play in big games like this. Game 5 in Boston was probably one of the biggest games those kids have played in for a long time. From that point of view, it’s just going to help their maturity and their growth a lot quicker. That game has done a lot, I’m sure, to give that team confidence and belief they’re good enough to win Game 6 and maybe good enough to win Game 7. Problem is, they’re facing a really strong opponent with a tremendous coach themselves. That’s where it gets difficult. But it’s been really good hockey.”

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