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Streaking Leafs think they can ‘play to a higher level’

Carl Gunnarsson, Dion Phaneuf, Carter Ashton

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (36) celebrates with Dion Phaneuf (3) and Carter Ashton (37) after scoring a second period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes during an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


With a 4-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won five straight games for the first time in almost seven years.

So as good as they’ve been recently, it’s not hard to find a reminder of just how much this franchise has struggled during the salary cap era. It also highlights their need to need to build off of their recent success rather than just celebrate it.

“We feel that this group can continue to grow and play to a higher level,” said coach Randy Carlyle, according to Sportsnet. “It’s enough talking about it; it’s time that action speaks louder than words and we’ve got to continue to grow this group to be a playoff hockey club.

“We believe that we’ve got more.”

Their goaltending and Jonathan Bernier in particular will be a major factor in determining whether or not the Maple Leafs have what it takes to be more than mediocre. He’s been a key component of their recent winning streak by stopping at least 30 shots in each of his last five games. Phil Kessel has also played a key role in the Maple Leafs’ recent success, but the bigger question is if the Maple Leafs can regularly step up on nights that Kessel is contained.

If nothing else, they now have a five-point cushion in the battle for a Wild Card spot. That’s a huge swing when you factor in that they were two points shy just before their winning streak began.

Follow @RyanDadoun