Toronto Maple Leafs: A Golden Opportunity Presents Itself

EDMONTON, AB - JANUARY 28: T.J. Brodie #78, Auston Matthews #34 and Wayne Simmonds #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on January 28, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB - JANUARY 28: T.J. Brodie #78, Auston Matthews #34 and Wayne Simmonds #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on January 28, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are destroying the Canadian Division.

As everyone predicted (or was it just me?) the Toronto Maple Leafs are by far the best team in their division. Currently with a six point lead (with a game in hand) over the second place Oilers, the Leafs are delivering on almost every front.

Goaltending? They’ve got the fourth best 5v5 save percentage in the NHL.  Offense? Leading the NHL with 3.77 goals per game.

Defense? The numbers aren’t great, but the results are.  Still, if you score four goals per game, the standards are different, and the defense has been fine.  Same with the PK.  The Leafs are 14th in goals against per 60 minutes of PK time, which isn’t great, but it’s perfectly fine when the power-play is scoring 14.35 goals per 60, which is almost two more than anyone else.

Now the bad news: Jake Muzzin, Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton have all been injured.

The Glass Is Half Full for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Now the better news: The Leafs are so deep it barely matters, especially considering the time of the year and the standings.  This means there’s an opportunity for other players that could help more down the road.

The Leafs know exactly what they have in Zach Hyman and Jake Muzzin. Not so much in Alex Barabanov and Mikko Lehtonen.

The two KHL expats can now perhaps get a bit more of a fair chance to contribute to this team.  Each has played in just seven games, with Baranov getting only six minutes per night, and Lehtonen ten.

With Muzzin out, the Leafs will likely promote Dermott into the top four, but who knows? They may give a bigger role to Lehtonen, and even if they don’t, he’ll now get to play a few games in a row, and will likely get more minutes.

Barabanov hasn’t looked great, but then again, the last time the guy played six minutes in a game was probably never.  He’s in the NHL, which means that until now he’s been one of the best players on every team he’s ever been on for his entire life.  Such a player may not show you what they are capable of in six minutes on the fourth line. (all stats naturalstattrick.com).

I expect Sheldon Keefe to use the Leafs current lead in the standings and the current spat of injuries to give both of these players more of an opportunity than they’ve got so far.

Next. The Best of This Season So Far. dark

The first chance to do so comes tonight against the Flames.