The Toronto Maple Leafs had an abysmal record against the Buffalo Sabres over the last few years—to the point that Leafs fans often cringed when they discovered a date with the Sabres, especially in Buffalo, where the Toronto Maple Leafs hadn't won a regulation game since 2008.
With the seeming resurgence of Phil Kessel's game and the continually rock solid goal tending of rookie netminder James Reimer, the Leafs have inched that much closer to their first playoff birth since the NHL lockout.
That's not to say that everyone is starting to plan a parade route; however, there is every reason for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs to harbor a little guarded optimism.
That being said, Dustin Pollack, a colleague here on Bleacher Report, does point out that this isn't the first time the Leafs have teased their fans with a late run toward the postseason.
While Dustin isn't wrong by any stretch, it is worth noting that it could be argued that this particular surge started at the turn of the calender year, not with 20 games left in the season.
Since the start of 2011, the Toronto Maple Leafs have gone 12-7-2—not spectacular, but pretty well all the same. It should also be noted that in that stretch, the Leafs have played six sets of back to back games and fared pretty well going 9-3 during those 12 games alone.
James Reimer was brought into the game to take over for Jean Sebastien Giguere, who has reportedly tweaked his groin again.
The good and the bad of that is that Reimer, who was likely to get most of the starts down the stretch anyway, is pretty much a lock to do so now.
The bad is this: Another in a long line of groin problems for Giguere this season will almost certainly negate what little trade value ha may have held leading up to the NHL trade deadline on February 28th.
For his part, Reimer continues to post exceptional numbers between the pipes for the Leafs. With a .928 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average, he is third and 12th in the league respectively and shows no signs of slowing down.
As far as the rookie standings go, those same numbers have him first in save percentage and second in gaols against average among his peers which incidentally is something this particular columnist hasn't seen since the days of Felix Potvin.
After defeating the Sabres for their second consecutive win, on the strength of Phil Kessels third goal in two games and an impressive shorthanded effort form youngster Joey Crabb, the Leafs find themselves just six points behind eighth place Carolina and eight points behind the seventh place New York Rangers.
With still 24 games to go and a little history on their side in terms of making late runs, the Toronto Maple Leafs have just about as good a shot as any team to make it to the postseason!