Leafs not looking back

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

BOSTON -- Too gritty to give up? Or, too short-sighted to tank?

Let the debate rage on.

Whichever theory you care to support, this much is certain: Those of you who thought the Maple Leafs' playoff hopes were smothered by Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, well, guess again.

These Leafs refuse to die.

Not that they were on the verge of purposely free-falling. This, if nothing else, is audition time for the players and the coaches, with interim general manager Cliff Fletcher evaluating who might be back next fall and who will get the heave-ho over the summer.

Fletcher is on record as saying that tanking is not an option for any team he is associated with. His players seem to be of the same mind.

In one of the most lopsided decisions in their favour this season, the Leafs whipped the Boston Bruins 8-2 here last night, running their hot streak to 7-2-1.

Goodbye Steve Stamkos, hello playoffs?

"We've certainly kept the faith and believed we were capable of being in the playoffs," Alex Steen said.

While it might be too early to book post-season reservations, the Leafs continue to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, although it does seem as if they are paddling upstream. They remain six points behind the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers, who posted a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay last night.

"You can't control what other teams do," Jason Blake said, upon being informed of the Flyers victory. "Don't even look at it. Just worry about yourself and play the way we've been playing.

"We had a letdown the other night against New Jersey but we get another crack at them Saturday."

Here is where things get interesting: Seven of the Leafs' remaining 13 games are against the Sabres (3), Flyers (2) and Bruins (2), teams ahead of them in the standings. Included is a home-and-home versus the Flyers next Tuesday and Wednesday. Those tilts, thought to be meaningless a month ago, now become the most important contests of the season for coach Paul Maurice and his team.

Also working in Toronto's favour are the two games against Boston, 0-2-1 in its past three and outscored 19-4 in that span.

The eight goals produced by the Leafs last night equalled their highest scoring outburst of the season. They lit up the New York Islanders 8-1 at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 11, a matchup just slightly more one-sided than last night.

In order to keep things rolling, the Leafs must now find a way to solve Brodeur, who returns with his Devils to the ACC tomorrow night.

To do that, their power play needs to continue functioning at a high level. The Leafs have racked up 14 power-play goals in their past 11 outings, including a season single-game high of four last night.

"Our power play hasn't been where we would like it to be for most of the season," Blake said. "It's nice that it's been clicking lately."


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