3-0, Better BeLeaf It
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Leafs have won 3 games, and before you laugh, realize what month it is. Yes people, it's October and the Leafs have won three games, six points, which ever way you want to look at it.
So what have we learned these past three games:
* Plan the parade jokes have officially passed Justin Bieber in popularity. One of them is lame and annoying. I'm Just sayin'
*The Rocket Richard Trohpy will officially be named the Abandoned Thrasher MacArthur Trophy at the end of the season.
*There's a better chance that Phil Kessel passes on a two on one than Nazem Kadri gets recalled given that Tim "Who The @#$%" Brent has two goals already.
*Ron Wilson will stop at nothing to make sure the Leafs have no momentum.
*Mike Komisarek's ice time will be reduced from last season. Maybe his dad should complain.
In all seriousness though, who isn't impressed by what they've seen from the Leafs so far? These games weren't a fluke, the Leafs worked hard in each of the games and outplayed each of their opponents. In my opinion, the success so far isn't fake. I see a team determined to win, something I haven't seen in years. Through each of the three games so far I can't help but shake my head in disgust at the teams the Leafs have iced post-lockout. But things have changed now.
Let's take a look at some of the factors that have turned this team around:
1) Defense The Leafs' defense has been outstanding so far this season, as it should be considering the price tag. So far the Leafs are 5th in the league in blocked shots with 56. That's not a huge area of improvement considering they finished 7th in the league last season. The biggest improvement has been shots against. The Leafs have only allowed 71 shots over three games, which puts them at 23.7 SA/G. That's good for 2nd best in the entire league, as well as best in the Eastern Conference. I know it's only three games, but those games included the Penguins who were among the league leaders in shots for last season. Granted it also included Montreal who was among the league's worst in shots for last season.
2) Goaltending Now I'm not going to get carried away with goaltending because it hasn't been as outstanding as some people are making it out to be. Yes Giguere looked good in his first two and Gustavsson looked decent last night, but a lot of the goaltending success can be attributed to the team's defense. With that said, you'd be delusional if you didn't think that the Leafs' goaltending has improved from the start of last season. No way that season opener doesn't go to overtime if Toskala started in goal. Gustavsson looked decent last night, he got better as the game went along. My issue with Gustavsson starting wasn't with Gustavsson, it was with Ron Wilson. I just don't understand why a coach would switch the goaltender on the hot streak. I fully understand that Giguere cannot play as many games as most of the elite starting goaltenders in this league, but he had four days' rest from Saturday night's game to Wednesday night's game. Really made no sense to me, and I stand by it.
3) Penalty Kill Notice a trend here? Most of the success the Leafs are having can be attributed to ways the Leafs have kept the puck out of their own net, and that's exactly how Brian Burke built this team. What can I say about the Leafs' penalty kill last season other than it was non-existent? Fact is the Leafs have only allowed one power play goal against this season and it came during the last minute of a double minor. Definitely a huge improvement thus far.
4) Luke Schenn I thought Schenn looked flat in the season opener, but he has quickly turned it around. He had an impact in the Senators game and had a huge impact on last night's game. Last night Schenn was physical and aggressive. He played well defensively and made smart decisions. If that wasn't enough, he pretty much created 2 of the Leafs 4 goals last night, gaining the primary assist on both. However, his double minor early in the game was the reason the Leafs lost the lead and the momentum. Other than that, he was great.
5) Clarke MacArthur This one is pretty obvious. So far it looks the Leafs got a steal with the $1.1 million they spent on him. I'm pretty sure Atlanta could have used those four goals too. Oh well, we're glad to have him and that's exactly the type of contribution this team needed to be complete. The Leafs' offense was questioned all summer, but it really hasn't been an issue through the first three games. Last night could have been a disaster given that the Leafs' top line was non-existent, but the other lines stepped up and combined with mediocre goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, they got the job done. Obviously I don't expect Clarke MacArthur to keep up this pace, but 25-30 goals is not unreasonable at this point.
So what do the rest of you guys think about the Leafs so far? What or who do you think has been the biggest impact for the Leafs? Share your comments and opinions below.
Thanks for reading!
One last thing. I had the fortunate opportunity of attending Saturday night's game against the Senators. I decided to show up early mostly so that I could try the new Real Sports Bar and Grill in Maple Leaf Square, which was fantastic. But I also joined in on the Leafs' pregame tail gate party which was also a lot of fun. We had the opportunity to listen to Wendel Clark give his opinion on the Leafs, the changes they have made and what to expect. I took a short video of his speech and you can check it out below: