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The excitement and buzz around Toronto created by the Leafs earning a playoff spot for the first time in nine years has been incredible over the last week. Entering this season, the Leafs were the only NHL team that hadn't made the postseason since the 2004-05 lockout.
Led by the stellar performance of young goaltender James Reimer and the emergence of Nazem Kadri as a legitimate star, Toronto will have a tremendous opportunity to reach the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Leafs are 9-4-1 in their last 14 games (5-2-2 in their last nine games vs. playoff teams), with Reimer starting in all of those matchups. The 25-year-old netminder came into this season under a lot of pressure to perform at a high level and establish himself as the goaltender of the future in Toronto, and to his credit, Reimer has lived up to expectations.
Reimer is 19-7-5 with a .926 save percentage this season, and his consistently strong play in net has been a major reason behind the Leafs' improvement on the penalty kill (28th in 2011-12 to third in 2013).
The Leafs have also played well on special teams in April with six power-play goals and just three power-play goals against. Special teams plays a large role in determining the outcomes of playoff games, so it's encouraging for Leafs fans to have their team excelling in this area late in the season.
The city of Toronto couldn't be more excited for the return of playoff hockey. The team will feed off of this energy and receive an emotional boost from the electricity of the crowd at every postseason game at the Air Canada Centre.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.