Feb 04, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs centre Matthew Lombardi (15) controls the puck in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE

The Lombardi Factor

Something that has gone largely unnoticed over the past few weeks is the emergence  of Matthew Lombardi as a far more consistent contributor to the Leafs, especially as an offensive weapon. Last night, against one of the few teams that may boast even more speed than the Leafs, Lombardi was still one of the fastest skaters on the ice, and that speed was on display on multiple occasions that saw him come close to stretching the Leafs’  lead even further.

At 29 years old, Lombardi has been around the league since 2003, and has scored 35+ points every year since 2006, and had a big year with Phoenix in 2008-09, setting career highs with 19 goals, 34 assists and 53 points. It was that season that convinced Nashville that Lombardi had legitimate top-six potential, especially considering the decidedly defensive system that the Coyotes and Predators play in. Unfortunately for the Predators, Lombardi played just two games with them before being concussed, and was packaged to Toronto due to the pricey contract he had signed.

At the beginning of the season, Leaf fans (and probably management) would have been happy just seeing Lombardi come in and contribute in a 3rd-4th line role as a checking forward. However, he scored a big goal in his first game as a Leaf, and has really started to turn his game on of late, as he continues to improve after suffering another minor injury early in the year. The vision and patience he showed on his assist to Phil Kessel last night was a great example of the ability he has, and his capacity to play both the wing and down the middle makes him even more valuable. Playing on a 3rd line with Tim Connolly and for now Joey Crabb, although eventually I figure Colby Armstrong will end up back on that line, Lombardi gives the Leafs a legitimate 3rd line that can be responsible defensively and chip in more than their share of offense. Make the jump for this morning’s Leaf Links.

  • Should be a staple of any Leaf fan’s post-game reading at this point, but just in case, Maple Leaf Hot Stove’s Game in 10 from last night.
  • Also from MLHS, an inspiring piece on this weekend’s anniversary of Brendan Burke’s tragic passing from Garrett Bauman.
  • James Mirtle examines whether the Leafs or Oilers’ rebuild has been more successful over at Leafs Beat.
  • Always a good read, Curt from Blue Chip Prospects talks about Tyler Bozak’s value down the middle.
  • A new contributor over at the Leafs Nation takes a look at the storied rivalry that has captivated Leafs and Habs fans for years.
  • A couple of trade rumor mill updates.  Bob McKenzie says the Leafs might not make any major moves this season, while Kevin Allen has his Eastern Conference trade deadline preview.

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