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Room for Improvement

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

It's clear the front office isn’t getting carried away after the Leafs recent string of wins over

the Canucks, Flames and Red Wings.

“I don’t think you have to be very invested in analytics to know that being outshot 42-19 and coming out of the game with a shootout win is large in part thanks to James Reimer,” said Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, after the Leafs' 2-1 win in Detroit. “Throughout this last stretch of games we’ve managed to find ways to win, we shot the puck well and we’ve got great goaltending.”

It's true: The Leafs have been grabbing wins thanks to a combination of stellar goaltending from both Jonathan Bernier and Reimer.

Over the last three games, the opposition fired 242 pucks toward Toronto’s net, compared to 131 shots directed by the Leafs.

Both goalies are handling the pressure well, and both have credited the defence in front for opening up the lanes and taking away rebounds to make their job easier.

Still, the Leafs analytics department is on the case about how to limit the opposition’s chances.

“It’s a long process ahead and that’s the way I look at it and excited to see if we can start to put that together in the long run,” said Dubas, who pointed at numerous examples of when the Leafs are dominating at possession, including the second period of the Leafs’ 4-1 win over Calgary.

There are areas of concern, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Toronto, with another game against Detroit looming on Saturday, followed by dates with Los Angeles and Anaheim.

A focal point for Dubas is for the Leafs to do a better job of protecting the leads after their offence provides a cushion.

“If we can hone in on that and continue to find ways where we can close out games better, where we’re not letting our goalie close it out for us on his own, that would be terrific and we’ve shown that potential," he said. "This isn’t a coaching staff content with hanging on and winning games, we want to find efficient ways to do so and be able to close out games a little bit better.”

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The Leafs' current roster sits at 22 players, and that includes Leo Komarov who continues to have concussion symptoms. There is no timetable for his return. Roman Polak is on the long-term injured reserve, which requires a waiting period of 10 games and 24 days. The earliest Polak would return to the lineup is Dec. 18 against the Hurricanes. Carter Ashton is set to resume practicing with the Maple Leafs and will come off suspension on Dec. 19 following the Leafs road game against Carolina.

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