Toronto Maple Leafs: Contender or Pretender?

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Contender or Pretender?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs are so close to the playoffs they can almost taste it.

Still, an ugly loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday shows that they've still got a way to go before they're set to make their mark in the postseason. 

With the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets still sniffing around the the final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, the next week leading up to the trade deadline will be crucial for Toronto if they want to solidify their chances of hanging on to their current seed.

The games will get tougher from here on out, and the upcoming schedule won't be cutting Ron Wilson's squad any slack.

However, the intensity will serve this group well.

There are 23 games remaining for the Maple Leafs to close the deal and tighten up the leaks and holes in their game.

If they can stay focused and composed, they should find themselves with a dance partner following the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.

Here are fives keys for the Toronto Maple Leafs if they want to continue to trend in the right direction.

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