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Gretzky impressed by Maple Leafs' efforts against Bruins

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TSN.ca Staff
5/11/2013 4:06:16 PM
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The Toronto Maple Leafs surprised many by making the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.

They have also impressed many more with their efforts against Boston in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series that now stands at 3-2 in favour of the Bruins, after Toronto's 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Friday.

One of those who has been impressed is Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky spoke with TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com on Saturday and offered his thoughts on the Maple Leafs, the team he watched growing up in Brantford, Ontario.

"They're up against a really good opponent, a team that's just two years removed from winning the Cup, but any time you can win a Game 5 in that situation against a team of that caliber, obviously you've got character and it builds even more character," Gretzky told LeBrun. "They're legit. They're playing on high-emotion right now."

Gretzky was quick to point out that much of the credit for the Leafs' play of late should go to head coach Randy Carlyle and his system.

"It's about believing in your system. The system starts with the head coach," added Gretzky. "He's got tremendous credibility after winning a Stanley Cup himself [2007 in Anaheim]. It's not a question of players saying, 'Are we sure he knows what he's doing?' Because they're absolutely positive he knows what he's doing. The credibility starts right there with the coach."

Gretzky also singled out goaltender James Reimer for his play throughout the season and into the post-season.

"There was so much talk throughout the hockey world wondering if their goaltending was strong enough to get through the season and get into the playoffs," Gretzky told LeBrun. "I think their goaltender has answered that question extremely well."

Win or lose, Gretzky feels this series will go a long way to improving the long-term outlook of the Leafs, a team that had not made the playoffs in nine years before this season.

"You know, they're still young and they're still learning," said Gretzky. "This is how you learn, by getting a chance to play in big games like this. Game 5 in Boston was probably one of the biggest games those kids have played in for a long time. From that point of view, it's just going to help their maturity and their growth a lot quicker.

The Maple Leafs host the Bruins in Game 6 on Sunday night. Should they win to force a seventh game, it would be played back in Boston on Monday night.

Wayne Gretzky (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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