Wednesday’s Leafs game against the Bruins was viewed by many as a litmus test for the Toronto, a measuring stick against one of the league’s top clubs that would indicate just how far Brian Burke’s boys still need to climb to get to the top of the NHL heap.
A couple of things were learned as a result of the game, but the key message was this: Membership into the NHL’s elite club won’t come easy.
The Leafs desperately need another tough, front-line forward to ease some of the scoring pressure off the shoulders of Phil Kessel, who has now gone four games without potting a goal.
Easier said than done, although Burke is rumoured to have thrown his hat into the ring surrounding the potential trade of high-scoring winger Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks.
Now that Bruce Boudreau has been hired to coach the Ducks, it remains to be seen if Ryan is still on the open market.
If he is, the price will be steep and the names of Luke Schenn and Nazem Kadri have been bandied about as Leaf trade bait in exchange for Ryan.
The Leafs also sorely miss James Reimer in net.
Toronto’s No. 1 goaltender has been sidelined with concussion like symptoms since getting his head clocked in a game back on Oct. 22.
Although Reimer and the Leafs say he is getting close to a return, it is not likely it will occur on Saturday in the Boston rematch.
During his absence, Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens have been sharing the goaltending duties with mixed results.
Gustavsson didn’t play that poorly in Wednesday’s game but he continued an infuriating habit of allowing at least one dubious goal per game.
The Leafs just aren’t good enough to be able to overcome that, at least not against a top-flight team such as the Bruins.