The Toronto Maple Leafs
were one of the many teams that watched the Philadelphia Flyers
wait until the last shot of the 2009-10 regular season -- literally -- to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and then followed their miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Final.
What the Flyers' run showed is that if a team can just get into the playoffs, anything can happen.
The Leafs were in the place where all the magic happened Thursday -- the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia was where Brian Boucher
stopped the Rangers' Olli Jokinen
to clinch the final-day shootout win -- and turned in a bit of magic of their own, stealing a 3-2 victory from the Flyers.
The win improved the Maple Leafs to 10-2-4 since the All-Star break, and got them within three points of the Rangers for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Leafs still have a lot of work to do if they're going to complete their run, but they know what's possible if they can just get there.
"You've got to make it to the final 16 and then it's a new season from there," said forward Darryl Boyce
, who scored the winning goal Thursday. "Teams that are hot going into the playoffs can get really streaky. Like these guys got in and got all the way to the Final."
Can the Leafs do the same? They certainly look to have the resiliency it takes to get in. Thursday's game was their ninth straight one-goal game, and they've gone 6-0-3 in that stretch.
"It's that time of year," captain Dion Phaneuf
said. "Playing down the stretch, the games are tight. You saw that again (Thursday). Everything is a one-goal game. Teams are playing for positioning and playing for their lives. There are big points on the line and that's why the games are so tight."
All the recent success has the Leafs feeling good, but the feeling in the locker room is that they haven't won anything yet.
"We're not looking any further ahead than the next game that's in front of us," Phaneuf said. "Right now our focus is taking it one game at a time, getting better as a group and playing good hockey down the stretch, and that's what we're doing."
That success has come with a young group that's currently being led by goaltender James Reimer
. Reimer stopped 28 of 30 shots Thursday against the Flyers, and in 13 games since the break, he's 8-1-3 with a 2.31 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and two shutouts.
"He's been very good and he continues to be solid," Phaneuf said. "He's a big goalie, a guy who plays square and plays the angles very well. He's been exceptional for us. We're trying to let him see pucks. That's our job, to let him see them, and if he sees it he can stop it and that's what he's been doing."
And it's what he'll have to keep doing if the Leafs are going to have any hope of finishing their run with the franchise's first playoff berth since the 2003-04 season. In fact, some feel their playoffs already have started.
"This is a playoff mentality," Boyce said. "Teams that get in at this time of the year are teams that are ready for the playoffs. Every game for the last 20 games have been like a playoff game for us."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK