Somewhere deep in the manual of hockey cliches is buried the one decreeing that, for a team to have sustained success, its best players have to be the best on the ice most nights.

If you’re willing to buy that, how do the Leafs measure up in that department?

For the sake of the argument, we will anoint forward Phil Kessel and defenceman Dion Phaneuf as the top two and evaluate what their potential influence will have to be for the team to end its long playoff drought. For all the team has accomplished, it may be that it will go only as far as these two take them (plus reasonable goaltending), especially as the intensity ratchets up for the final 20 games.

Despite losses at Boston on Thursday and in a shootout to Pittsburgh at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, the Leafs still managed five of a possible eight points on the week to keep them comfortably in the playoff picture — if there is such a thing as comfortable.

Fired-up fans

Kessel, and to a lesser extent Phaneuf, are the biggest flash points for this team when fans get fired-up about what is going right or wrong.

Strong games by the pair helped salvage a point against a very good Penguins team on Saturday, lesser efforts against the Bruins were part of the reason the Leafs fell just short.