For the first time since 2004, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a participant in the Stanley Cup playoffs. While the 2013 season began with speculation about goaltender Roberto Luongo, the Maple Leafs proved they could contend with James Reimer in net. Despite an injury-plagued season by Joffrey Lupul, the team, led by strong performances by players like James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri, still managed to capture the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.
On Wednesday night, Toronto will meet the Boston Bruins in a Northeast Division matchup in the Quarterfinal round. Boston entered the year as a favorite to contend for the Eastern Conference's crown. While the club stumbled its way past the regular season finish line, it still has a roster full of talented players with intimate knowledge of what it takes to capture Lord Stanley's cup.
During their four-game season series, Boston recorded two regulation victories in addition to a shootout win. The Bruins outscored the Maple Leafs 10-7, but Toronto killed off all seven of their opponent's power play opportunitieswhile converting on one of their 11 chances.
1. Will Tyler Bozak be able to take face-offs?
It's believed that Bozak will be available to play in Game 1. However, there have been reports that he won't be able to take face-offs. Considering Bozak is the Maple Leafs top face-off performer (52.6 percent success rate), this could be a problem. What kind of impact is this going to have on the team's line combination and face-off strategy?
2. Phil Kessel. Anything and everything about Phil Kessel.
So many questions about Kessel. Whether it comes down to Boston's decision to pair him against Zdeno Chara or the fans treatment of the former Bruin, we want to know what happens with Phil Kessel in Game 1. For good measure, how will Tyler Seguin (one of pieces subsequently added via the picks acquired in the Kessel trade) perform in Game 1?
3. How will Tuukka Rask and Reimer perform?
Pressure is on the goalies in this series. Rask will be a restricted free agent this summer and, as if it needed to be said, general manager Peter Chiarelli stated his contract negotiations will be altered by his performance in the postseason. Considering his last postseason start came three years ago during Boston's historic collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers, all eyes will be on Rask and how he rebounds.
As was detailed earlier, Reimer came into the year with doubts about his future as the Maple Leafs starter. How will he fare in his first NHL playoff game?