The Toronto Maple Leafs are 5-1 on the season and are tied for first in the NHL standings. Even though it’s only six games into the season, the way the Leafs have been playing points to the fact that if they improve their play, they should not lose their spot anytime soon.
The Maple Leafs might be the sloppiest team in the NHL. They’re near the top of the league in giveaways and are constantly being outshot. Now, normally one would say that the Leafs play is unsustainable, and it might be. However, I believe differently.
Even with their sloppy play, the Leafs have displayed a great ability to battle back from behind. They have trailed in all but one of their wins so far. They also have a win each in overtime and a shootout, something that was hard to come by last season.
The duo of Dave Bolland and Mason Raymond has been a revelation this season. Bolland has three goals, two of which are game-winners. Raymond, who might be this year’s best bargain signing, has two goals and four assists for six points.
Both Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk have five goals. Phil Kessel‘s playmaking skills continue to rise as he has five assists. Nazem Kadri‘s sniping ability, as displayed last night, are continuing to grow so he shouldn’t stay at two goals for long.
Those other contributions are secondary to the biggest contribution to the Leafs’ early run: their goaltending, specifically Jonathan Bernier. Before giving up five goals to the Edmonton Oilers, the most goals Bernier had given up in one game this season was two. Also, if you consider the fact that he didn’t give up any goals in his relief of James Reimer against Ottawa, you could say he has one-and-a-half shutouts.
If Bernier continues to be the steady force in net the Leafs have been looking for, then he will give Randy Carlyle no choice but to publicly anoint him the starting goaltender. James Reimer will be disappointed, but he will have to ride the pine until the end of the season, when his contract ends or he could be traded before the trade deadline.
If the players that are keeping the Leafs on the winning side of the scoreboard keep doing what they’re doing, the Leafs’ play should improve and that, of course, should improve the Leafs’ chances of winning. Considering their play has led to a 5-1 record, that can only be a good thing.
Will they win every game? Of coure not. They will run into teams that are better than them on certain nights and they will have their slumps as all teams do. The Leafs’ job will be to minimize the length of those slumps.
As it stands right now, the Leafs have a four-point cushion on Boston, Montreal, Detroit and Tampa Bay. If they can continue to take advantage of their schedule, they could, at least, hold on to that cushion.
The rest of this month, the Leafs will take on Minnesota, Carolina, Chicago, Anaheim, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Calgary. The Leafs should be able to come out of at least half of those games with wins.
The Leafs are in a good position for the rest of October and could set themselves good for the rest of the season. Let’s just hope there’s no 18-wheelers driving near a cliff anywhere.
Toronto is tied for the best record in all of the NHL and are poised to win the Atlantic Division, buy your Toronto Maple Leafs Tickets now.