I didn’t think that the leafs before the Tavares signing was going to be a much better team than last season despite the young pieces that are in place. Needless to say I think I could’ve been wrong! Since the signing of Tavares, the odds for a Cup appearance are significantly higher than before the signing. The big 3 on this roster of Matthews, Tavares, and Marner has produced beyond expectations in the early part of the season.
So far in a just under 2 weeks of the young season the Leafs are 6-1 and have scored 33 goals and the big part of that has been Auston Matthews with 10 of those goals. Mitch Marner and Tavares are combined with 10 goals. Right now 4 of the Leafs occupy 4 of the 5 spots in points now! Matthews is first with 16 points, Morgan Rielly, (Leafs D man) is second with 13 points, Tavares is third with 11 points; tied with Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins who is in fourth and Marner holds the fifth spot.
One reason for this white hot point production is their Power Play, which is clicking at a percentage of 47.4%, first in the league. Only 2 other teams hold a 40% or higher Power Play, the Dallas Stars 46.7% and the Boston Bruins with 41.7%. Numbers like that are uncommon in the beginning of the season, that’s where you get most of your undisciplined play, guys trying to get the stamina back and what not. This #1 Power Play unit is very lethal and teams are coming to understand that now or they’re not. I think as the season unfolds teams are going to try and play a more disciplined game to keep them off the ice. The speed, the talent, and the right mix of veteran leadership with the young core of roster, it’s win now or bust!
There is one aspect that worries me and that’s the defense and that effects the goaltending. Frederik Andersen has worked out of being a spotty goalie to one the more improved goalies in the league! Despite having 21 losses he managed 38 wins, if half of those losses were wins or maybe a quarter of those losses wins, that’s a 40 win season and possible Veizna Trophy candidate. Defense will be the key factor for the Leafs, the speed they have on offense is a double edged sword. It will create chances for and against, and you can’t leave your goaltender to make 2 or more saves in a single sequence. Andersen has had 20 or more wins in every season since the 2013-14 season and 3 seasons with 33 or more wins, and last season being a career best with 38.
Like every team, there is always shotty aspects of a team. I feel that were in for a real treat up north of the border, alot of All Star hopefuls? I don’t think that’s the mind-frame of Toronto. You’ve got a future Hall of Fame coach In Babcock, a proven Cup winner before and now he’s got another basket off golden eggs. (In case you forgot, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyk) Toronto is on the cusp of being a hell of a team in an already packed Eastern Conference. Luckily they’re not in the Metro who has the last 3 Cups in Washington and Pittsburgh. The Atlantic is going to be a battle between Boston and Toronto, which I feel the Leafs are going to take the Atlantic. The real test will come against the Caps and Pens.
The Leafs are dreaming of a Cup win. They have 13 in their franchise, the last coming back in 1967. So the new generation has something to believe in and look forward to…. I know I’ll be watching alot of the Leafs this season as should you!