Toronto Maple Leafs Prove Themselves Against Tough Opposition: Can It Continue?

Jeff Langridge@@JeffLangridge1Correspondent IIIDecember 12, 2010

Phil Kessel must start producing if the Leafs are to improve.
Phil Kessel must start producing if the Leafs are to improve.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In the past five games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have faced five of the NHL's top six teams.

Many people said that these five games would show what the Leafs were really made of.

The Leafs came out of the five games with wins in three of them; beating Boston, Washington and Montreal has been no small feat this season.

Then again, they also were beaten by Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

So, what does this all mean?

It means the Leafs still need to improve. They can't afford to keep falling behind early in games. They're not always going to be able to come back and win as they did in Boston and Washington.

Also, the Leafs have to start winning in regulation, giving other teams points doesn't exactly help their cause.

Being able to come back and win against the Bruins and Capitals has proven that the Leafs can hang with the best of the league. If the Leafs can bring out a constant, consistent effort for 60 minutes instead of 20, they would be doing a lot better than they are now.

The games with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia set us back and are excellent examples my point about the Leafs falling behind early and not being climb back out.

So, as of right now, the Leafs sit 28th in the league. In their next five games they face off against Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Atlanta and New Jersey.

It's safe to say that if the Leafs want to go anywhere this season, they have to come out of these games with another 3-2 record, or even better, go 4-1.

They cannot afford to lose to Edmonton like they did in their last matchup. The Oilers and Flames should be considered must-win games for the Leafs.

The Canucks are going to provide another tough challenge for the team and it might need a few lucky breaks to beat them.

The Atlanta game will most likely be the most interesting of the next five games, since the Thrashers are one of the teams Toronto is going to have to fight with for a playoff spot.

New Jersey has far underachieved this season and is actually below the Leafs in the league standings. As such, it should be considered another must-win.

Are the playoffs out of reach for Toronto? No.

But they are going to need to play better than they did in the past five games. And considering that the played pretty well in those games, that's saying something.