SPORTS: Too often slagged by Toronto hockey fans, defenceman Roman Polak is grossly underrated & could prove to be an unsung hero if the Maple Leafs are to go far in this year’s NHL playoffs

By Henry McRandall

It’s been an awfully long time since the Toronto Maple Leafs have been a serious contender for the Stanley Cup and there are countless Torontonians – and Ontarians – who’ve waited what seems to be a lifetime for their favorite team to finally step to the fore and give their loyal fans something to really cheer about.
But one thing is clear: Despite all the offensive prowess the Leafs have shown this season and the sometimes Herculean efforts of Nos. 1 & 2 goalies Frederik Andersen and Curtis McIlhenny, they still have some troubling woes behind the blueline, deficiencies that could become glaring in the playoffs if, by some unfortunate chance, Roman Polak is not a big part of the Buds’ playoffs defence.
Consider this:

Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner have sparkled this season as offensive defencemen. Ron Hainsey has shone defensively, particularly on the penalty kill – along, of course, with Polak. And Travis Dermott is showing early signs of being a highly-skilled two-way defence force.
But of all of them, Roman Polak is, by far, the best of the bunch when it comes to removing opposing forwards from the Leafs goalies’ slot. Even more importantly, however, is that Polak is not only the most willing to block a shot but also the Leaf most capable of blocking a large number of shots without suffering a debilitating injury.
And when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs, as important as stellar goaltending and a high-powered offence may be, the battle for Lord Stanley’s mug is also equally about being able to dish out pain, suffer pain and still be able to perform at a world-class level.
Who among the Toronto Maple Leafs could possibly fill that crucial need better than Roman Polak?
The Maple Leafs were very right to re-sign Polak after he completed his Professional Tryout deal at the beginning of the season; and they’d be very wrong to let him go at or before the trade deadline.

As for why Leafs management chose to keep Roman Polak, you might want to check out this Sportsnet story:

(You can also follow Henry on Twitter – @HenryMcRandall1 )

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