Toronto Maple Leafs' 5 Most Impressive Players During 2013 Playoffs
It was a heartbreaking end to the 2013 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I don't think I've ever been around a group of more heartbroken fans in my life.
Yet the mere fact that the Leafs were able to mount a comeback from three games to one down and build a three-goal lead through 50 minutes of play leaves something for Leafs fans to celebrate this offseason.
There were certainly some players who stood out in the seven-game series for the Buds as well.
From young guns proving they can play well at the NHL level to stars snapping a nasty streak, Toronto fans saw some impressive performances from their favorite players.
Here are the team's best performers for the Toronto Maple Leafs this postseason.
James van Riemsdyk
What an acquisition James van Riemsdyk proved to be (yes, credit to Brian Burke on that one).
After scoring 18 goals in the shortened regular season (that extrapolates to 31 goals in a full 82-game season), van Riemsdyk led the Blue and White in postseason points, posting two goals and five assists.
He was also one of the only players who seemed ready to play in Game 1 and rarely went unnoticed throughout the series.
In fact, in Game 7, van Riemsdyk gave the Boston Bruins fits on multiple occasions. At one point he was hauled down by Zdeno Chara when not even remotely close to the puck (though no penalty was called), and later in the game, he was elbowed after finishing a check (again, no penalty was called, despite the fact that the elbow drew blood).
It seems pretty clear that the former second overall pick has finally reached his potential in Toronto.
Leafs fans should be excited about this young gun in the years to come.
If there was one player who made a major statement in 2013 for the Maple Leafs, it was netminder James Reimer.
After his breakout regular season, Reimer was incredible for the Leafs in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While his numbers may not reflect his on-ice performance, keep in mind that Toronto turnovers led to breakaways, screened shots, as well as open men in the slot.
Throughout Games 5 and 6, James Reimer kept his team's season alive.
Magnificent save after magnificent save proved to everyone that the goalie controversy in Toronto is dead.
Were there some bumps along the road? Sure.
Keep in mind though, Reimer is still extremely young for a goaltender and has already shown some signs of brilliance.
Toronto has finally found their No. 1 netminder.
It's time to open the purse strings and get this sniper re-signed.
He may not be a vocal leader or someone who loves the limelight, but Phil Kessel gets the job done. Period.
After his second consecutive point-per-game season in Toronto, Kessel proved he has the ability to step up in clutch this postseason.
Not only did Phil Kessel notch four goals in seven contests against the Bruins, but he tallied three of them during five-on-five play (a feat he had never accomplished against his former club), and just about every one of them was a big goal. For starters, two of his four goals were game-winners.
The fourth? Well, it gave Toronto a 3-1 lead in Game 7.
I'd say the man known affectionately in Toronto as "Phil the Thrill" has impeccable timing. If the Leafs could have avoided that Game 7 collapse and held on to win 4-2, Kessel would have scored the game-winning goal for Toronto in three of their four first-round victories.
With some salary cap space opening up this offseason, inking Kessel to a long-term contract must be among the team's top priorities.
Time for the organization to follow the fans' lead and say "Thank You, Kessel".
Give Joffrey Lupul credit.
After a lackluster Game 1, there weren't too many players who played with more energy in the subsequent six games.
Lupul wrapped up his postseason with three goals and an assist in his seven games, but also helped Toronto in a big way in the energy department.
It was a battle for Toronto all series to gain and maintain possession of the puck, and Lupul was one of the few guys who was able to forecheck effectively and help Toronto gain some time in the offensive zone.
Hopefully in the years to come, Lupul will continue to lead by example and play effective, hard-nosed hockey.
Jake Gardiner is here to stay.
Or at least that's the message he conveyed with his play in the 2013 postseason.
After finally cracking the lineup in Game 2, Gardiner established himself as one of Toronto's best players this postseason.
Finishing second on the team in ice time per game, Gardiner evidently gained the trust of head coach Randy Carlyle.
His five points were good enough for fourth on the team and second among Leafs defensemen as well.
He was also much better with the puck and provided a much-needed boost in terms of puck movement and speed on the back end.
Between him and Cody Franson, the Leafs may have found their second defense pairing of the future.
Both still have some learning to do, but the talent is there and their play in the postseason against a deep and tough Bruins squad proves that they're both capable of manning the blue line for the foreseeable future.
Remember, defensemen generally take a little longer to develop, so the fact that they're both on the right side of 25 years old bodes well for the Leafs.