Previewing the East: Toronto Maple Leafs
NOTE: Over the next several weeks, BlueJackets.com will take an extensive, in-depth look at the Jackets' new opponents in the Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for photo galleries, analysis, video highlights and more!
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Head coach: Randy Carlyle
Captain: Dion Phaneuf
LAST YEAR: 26-17-5 (57 points); 5th in the Eastern Conference, lost to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
VS. CBJ in '13-14: 10/25, 11/25, 3/3
OUTLOOK: Who could forget the Maple Leafs' heartbreaking loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs? The Maple Leafs players and staff sure haven't. Though they made the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade, the Maple Leafs spent the offseason making sure their line-up is ready to make another run at the Stanley Cup. With the addition of the size and talent of former Chicago Blackhawks center Dave Bolland (you know, the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal in 2013) and former New Jersey Devils power forward/Ontario native David Clarkson, as well as highly touted 2013 NHL Draft pick Morgan Reilly, expect the Maple Leafs to use their tough playoff loss as the motivation they need to survive the 2013-14 season. They've beefed in goal, as well, trading for Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings in hopes that he forms a solid tandem with incumbent James Reimer.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The starting goalie position won't come easy for Reimer, but he certainly made his case in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by forcing the Bruins to win Game 7 in overtime and being one of the Leafs' best players in the postseason. Bernier is the other goalie fighting for the spot, and both he and Reimer are more than capable of carrying the mail in the starting role. The 25-year-old Reimer had a career-best season in 2012-13, which included a 19-8-5 record, four shutouts, a .924 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average. His play was a central factor in the Leafs' first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004, and if he can keep up the numbers from last season, the Maple Leafs will certainly be in playoff contention once again in 2013-14.
The points leader for the Maple Leafs in both goals (20) and assists (32) is hoping for yet another productive season. He is also looking to secure a spot on Team USA's roster for the Olympics in Sochi, and will have to let his play for the Maple Leafs make the case. He's a consistent player who is more than capable of scoring 30+ goals this season, making him a player to watch on this Toronto team that showed it can light the lamp a year ago.