Character Gives Leafs The Edge in Many Ways
(TORONTO) -- The Leafs get set for their clash with Ottawa, and there are certainly some question marks regarding the health of at least two VITAL players.
Darcy Tucker and Ken Klee are the best at what they specialize in on the Leafs roster, not to mention highy skilled in most areas of the game.
One or both may be back by the start of the series, but more importantly, the team has learned to deal with their absence in recent weeks, which sets up a tremendous shot in the arm when either or both return.
Having said that, and with the usual condition that most of the lineup stays reasonably healthy, there are elements of this team that easily make it the most qualified for a Cup run of all the Pat Quinn teams in Toronto, and in my mind, the team that will prevail in this (almost) annual event with the Senators.
There is a level of respect, and self-respect in the Leafs room that has never been as high as it is this year. Chalk that up to some of the new faces and a maturing of some of the younger ones.
Are there any more questions about the impact and qualities of Leetch, Francis, Johannson, Marchment, (Klee when he comes back) and Nieuwendyk??? This might be the most accomplished and savvy group of players to ever join a team within a 9-month stretch, and to all be new to a team in its current playoff push.
They compliment the group that's been here for years, and the level of focus, maturity, skill and ability to sacrifice for a TEAM cause has never been better because of the example already set by the Sundins, Roberts, Mogilnys and Fitzgeralds, to name a few of the already very solid group in place.
Roles are clear from top to bottom of the lineup, the little things are being done right these days, veterans are guiding, when needed, some of the younger players being counted upon for valuable minutes. And this team that has LOOKED complacent at times this year, flashed its teeth Friday in Buffalo, and bit right in against Ottawa on Saturday.
The killer instinct is here, the opportunity is in place, and if the Leafs play as well as they can against an otherwise very skilled opponent in Ottawa, they could dictate the course of this first round series.