I know Canadian Thanksgiving was last month, but, moving to the States gives me a reason to have an extra turkey dinner. Plus, I always found that Americans seem to put a bit more emphasis on the fall holiday than Canadians, between the football and all the parades. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a minute to point out some of the things that Leaf fans should be thankful for after the first quarter of the NHL season.
10. The powerplay is clicking, finally. For years we’ve had to watch some terribly inept powerplay units and the Leafs are currently 3rd with 22.6% success rate.
9. James Reimer is almost healthy again.
8. A strong youth movement, especially up front. Before getting called up to the show, Joe Colborne was tearing up the AHL, while Matt Frattin looks like he’s finally starting to find his offense.
7. Speaking of the blueline, Dion Phaneuf is looking more like the Norris Trophy candidate from his younger days.
6. That deal that Brian Burke made to send out Beauchemin at last season’s trade deadline is looking great right about now. Joffrey Lupul has been enjoying a huge comeback year and is 3rd in the league in scoring. Jake Gardiner has been a welcome surprise and he should be a central part of what is one of the most talented young bluelines in the league.
5. Joey Crabb, a guy that most had written off as a career AHL player, has shoehorned himself right into this lineup, playing with speed, grit and the occasional offense.
4. For a guy that took a ton of criticism last year as a mis-cast first line center, Tyler Bozak is sure doing his part to shut people up this season. 4th on the team in scoring, Bozak has played so well between Lupul and Phil Kessel that even with the return of Tim Connolly to the lineup, he’s kept that spot.
3. The biggest acquisition the Leafs made via free agency this summer, Connolly has also been subjected to alot of criticism, especially with some early injury trouble. 10 points in 10 games played so far, and he’s a big part of the resurgence of the powerplay.
2. John-Michael Liles was only supposed to be a fill-in this year while the Leafs let Gardiner mature in the minors. He clearly missed the memo, and is currently tied for 7th among defensemen in scoring with 13 points, 5 of which have come on the powerplay. His veteran presence in the locker room is also clearly being felt, as he has worn the A in Mike Komisarek’s absence.
1. There’s no question who the MVP of this team, and probably the league, is so far. Phil Kessel has been absolutely lights out all season, and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s playing a full-ice game, improved his defensive play and seems to have gotten even faster this year. He always seems to get to the right place at the right time, and has gotten better at driving the net and creating his own space.
That’s all for now, hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Leafs!
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