Leafs are optimistic

Toronto Maple Leafs' Francois Beauchemin celebrates a goal by teammate Phil Kessel. ...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Francois Beauchemin celebrates a goal by teammate Phil Kessel. (REUTERS/Adrien Veczan)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:25 PM ET

The Maple Leafs can’t become the Chicago Blackhawks in just one season, but they might have a shot at being this year’s Philadelphia Flyers.

Philly crept along at .500 and squeaked into the playoffs in a Game 82 shootout and the Flyers still were breathing in June. They did have a few guys named Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and defenceman Chris Pronger that puts them in a richer neighbourhood than the Leafs, but the 14 points and six clubs between the teams is not like climbing Mt. Everest in the eyes of Toronto’s optimistic players.

“At the start of this training camp we talked about the Flyers,” defenceman Francois Beauchemin said as the Leafs prepped for back-to-back games against Philly. “They got their spot in the playoffs by winning a shootout, so you never know what happens. Same with Montreal, which finished low in the conference and got to the conference final. And look at Phoenix going (from nowhere) to fourth in the Western Conference.

“ It just shows you how close the NHL is with the salary cap. Everything is evened up and it comes down to the team that is going to work the most. And a little bit of luck.

“We’re trying to improve and learn from what the good teams did last year.”

The Flyers juggled goaltenders all season and never did have a world-beater between the pipes, yet were a few wins from the Cup.

“They’re young and they turned it around pretty quickly,” said Toronto assistant coach Rob Zettler. “So it is a good team for us to follow. Their best players are also their hardest workers. If you watch a shift from Richards, he’s going hard all the time. It’s a great example.

“Those final three or four games of the regular season last year against the Rangers, Philly and Monteal, we could have had an impact on any one of those teams in the playoffs, but came up short. It just shows you that you have to get in. That’s our focus.”


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