The Toronto Maple Leafs finished a home-and-home series with the Boston Bruins on Monday with mixed results. After winning the first game of the set, the Leafs dropped the back end of the matchup in a shootout. Over the two games, there were plenty of positives and negatives to take away from the performances.
On the positive side, Nazem Kadri continued his effective play. The Maple Leafs center had a goal and an assist in the two games, as he continued to be a spark plug for the Toronto attack.
It is important for Toronto to continue to get production from Kadri on its third line. A successful run into and through the playoffs requires contribution from all lines.
Another encouraging sign was the solid play between the pipes by James Reimer. Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Leafs heading into the stretch run is whether their netminders are capable of playoff-caliber hockey.
Reimer had solid performances against a Boston team that has legitimate cup aspirations. He needs to take his performances against Boston as a confidence boost and build upon them going forward. His performances were encouraging, but he still needs to take it up a notch to boost the Leafs' chances.
Toronto opened up the series by winning a game in which it was totally dominated statistically. Learning how to win those types of games is key to having playoff success. Toronto was able to convert its chances, giving it the victory. In the playoffs, when chances are at a premium, teams have to be efficient in converting in order to move on.
On the flip side of winning that type of game is the fact that the Leafs were statistically owned in the first game. Limiting the opposition's opportunities and controlling the puck are two things the Leafs need to improve on. Boston can be tough to match up with, but come the playoffs, there are no easy nights. Allowing the goal to be under siege from turnovers and lack of effort will eventually burn Toronto if allowed to continue.
The other negative that stood out was the apparent disappearance of Phil Kessel. Kessel was only able to get off two shots over 38 minutes in the head-to-head against his former team. I wrote last week about Kessel taking the opportunity to step up down the stretch, and this was not stepping up. Toronto needs him to assert himself in these matchups to find success.
Overall, Toronto can be pleased with the points earned from a difficult two-game set, but it must not be complacent with its performance. There are encouraging signs, but this team has several on-ice questions that need to be answered.
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