Toronto Maple Leafs Roundtable: Three Positives, One Negative

Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) and teammates celebrate his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) and teammates celebrate his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) blocks a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner (16) during a shootout at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) blocks a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner (16) during a shootout at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

Torrin Batchelor

Name 3? That’s pretty hard to do. However, unlike the last decade, it’s not because the Leafs are a barren train wreck of futile hopes and dreams, it’s because it’s going to be tough to pick just 3.

Positives

1) Mitch Marner can play Defence.

His plus/minus stat doesn’t reflect this but the number of times you see Marner as the first forward back is unbelievable. His edge work on his skates allows him to get back and pick the pocket of the opposing forward and then cycle the puck up to his line mates or break the puck out of the zone himself.

After his record breaking CHL career, we all expected him to score, but his commitment to defence, back checking and the little things are what cements the fact that his NHL career should be a long and notable one.

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2) Frederik Andersen’s Puck Handling

Say what you will about Andersen’s mostly unwhelming stat line to start the season, going 1-0-2 with a 3.64GAA and a paltry .879Sv%. Frankly, I don’t really blame the guy for much.

The number of shots that the young Leafs are throwing their bodies in front of from the point, only to have redirect right back onto the other teams sticks from a better angle is almost impossible for Andersen to adjust too.

For the Leafs to even sniff the playoffs, he’ll need to player better, but the Leafs will also have calm the chaos in their own zone to help him. Despite this, something I was completely unaware was a tool in Andersen’s repertoire is his puck handling ability.

There are a number of times he’s completely killed an opposing forecheck by fielding a dumped puck up the ice to his teammates. This has taken a lot of pressure off of our young D-core and has allowed our counter attack style to be one of the more potent offences in the early stages of the season.

3) It’s Fun to Watch Leaf Games Again

I don’t know about you, but there were many times last season where I’d be watching a game and turn it off after the first or second period. The Leafs had very little game breaking talent and if they ever fell in a hole early, they rarely had the horses to get out of it.

It was boring hockey, and although I fully understood the need for it and fully supported the Shanaplan, the Leafs were painful to watch at points last season. Between Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Zikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown the Leafs have an influx of game breaking talent on the roster this year.

Sure they’ve only gone 1-1-3 to start but I’ve watched every second of it. Sure the Leafs are trying to force us to get over the trauma of that Bruins Game 7 where we were winning 4-1 in the third period before ultimately losing to them but continuously starting the third period with 4 goals in the board.

Sure, the team has some seriously questionable defensive tendencies. But as a good friend of mine texted me after Marner scored his first goal, “This team makes me smile man” and by George does it ever.

Win or lose, and you can put your money on several more loses before the year is through, this team is fun again.