Toronto Maple Leafs: Early Progress Is There Despite Results
By: Aaron Greenfield
One win through the first seven games is hardly something that indicates progress. But for the Leafs this season, success shouldn’t be measured by results, but rather the actual play on the ice. Let’s see how their play has been and what we’ve learned so far.
The Leafs have scored just 16 goals in 7 seven, and are tied with Buffalo and Calgary for 4th fewest in the league. In 5 of their games they failed to score more than 3 goals and the 2 games they eclipsed that mark they got at least a point. In other words, if the Leafs score more than 3 goals, expect them to get a point; also don’t expect them to score more than 3 goals very often. Leo Komarov has been a nice surprise, being given a top line spot and embracing the role, leading the Leafs in goals with 4. A healthy Joffrey Lupul has helped with secondary scoring, and we’ve seen Lupul come up clutch, starting the rally in the Ottawa game and scoring the game-winning goal in their only victory, in the high scoring affair against Columbus. Nazem Kadri hasn’t seen the offensive numbers he might like thus far but advanced stats say it will turn around. Kadri leads the Leafs in all Corsi and Fenwick stats suggesting that when he is on the ice, the puck is on his stick and the Leafs are creating offensive chances. Also, he has one of the lowest shooting percentages on the team at just 4.55%, which is unsustainable. It means that sooner or later if he keeps shooting the puck and continues to create scoring chances, he should be one of the best Leafs offensive forwards.
DEFENCE HAS BEEN BETTER BUT CAN STILL IMPROVE
Outside of Morgan Rielly, the defence has been average to below-average. Roman Polak does not look like the same one who shined for the team at times last season. The Leafs have to hope his value doesn’t drop by the deadline. Dion Phaneuf still gets caught resulting in odd man rushes the other way and has been fortunate that Rielly has been able to bail him out on more than one occasion. Jake Gardiner has vastly improved his play and Matt Hunwick has been a nice addition.
STILL NO CLEAR CUT NUMBER ONE GOALIE
Bernier has been the unofficial number one goalie since his arrival and this season he has been solid but not spectacular. Bernier allowed early goals for much of the season, resulting in the team having to play from behind all game long. He also hasn’t fixed the tendency to allow questionable goals, on shots that he should be stopping. Reimer hasn’t been given many starts and has struggled again to prove he is deserving of the starting job over Bernier. Tonight, however he has another shot, as he Babcock confirmed that Reimer will start tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.
The early schedule has been unusual and has made it difficult for the Leafs to get in any sort of rhythm, with most games spaced three to four days apart. That will change this week, as the Leafs begin a stretch of 4 games in 6 nights, starting Friday. So far the Leafs have outshot their opponent 4 times, including a 52 shot performance against Montreal. Their advanced stats are good which is a positive sign that they are playing well and are competitive. They should see the results, if not this year, then in the next few years when their prospects are ready for NHL action.