NHL playoffs 2013: James van Riemsdyk continues to impress

Jim Rogash

Maple Leafs forward James van Reimsdyk has been arguably the best player in Toronto's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.

Few things have remained consistent for the Maple Leafs during their 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins.

After a poor showing Game 1 -- which was decided by a 4-1 final score -- Toronto followed up the performance with a 4-2 victory in Game 2. In Game 3, the team hosted their first playoff contest since 2004 in front of a packed house at Air Canada Centre. With thousands of fans inside the venue and thousands more packed outside, the playoff starved Toronto crowd bared witness to a turnover-aided 5-2 victory by the Bruins.

While the team has had its ups-and-downs, there has been a glaring bright spot that has highlighted the return of playoff hockey to Toronto.

Forward James van Riemsdyk has by far been the Maple Leafs' best player and, arguably, might be playing better than anyone else in the series.

Having already entered this postseason with a bit of a reputation as a 'Bruins killer,' van Riemsdyk has done nothing short of substantiating that claim.

Following Game 3 on Monday night, the 24-year-old had recorded a point in all three contests (two goals, an assist), averaged 18:30 of ice time and registered 14 shots on goal.

However, his contributions go beyond the stat line.

One of the bigger criticisms levied against van Riemsdyk during his time in Philadelphia was the perceived lack of a physical side to his game. Well, that's no longer the case in Toronto (at least, in this series).

Not only has van Riemsdyk battled admirably in front of the net, he has also been willing to impede the progress of Boston big-man Zdeno Chara. Whether it's a shove in front of the goal, a push during a scrum or an accidental-on-purpose run in, van Riemsdyk has been willing to physically engage with Chara and has held his own in doing so.

While his statistical production will likely even out at some point, his mental awareness in the physical side of the game is certainly a positive development. Having a key role in the construction of the team's forward group, van Riemsdyk has proven he is capable of filling the big-bodied forward archetype former-general manager Brian Burke was hoping to acquire this past offseason.

While three games does not make a playoff career, van Riemsdyk's postseason performance has to be an encouraging sight for the Maple Leafs and their fans.

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