Why The Leafs Are A Great Story So Far
By any standard, the Maple Leafs are having an unspectacular season.
Start with the record, 5-4-3. They have been outscored 41-35.
They are 19th in goals against, 17th in goals for, 12th on the power play and 23rd in the penalty kill. They are 1-3 in the shootout.
And yet, they are a great story because they compete, never so brightly as when they scored five unanswered goals Saturday to drub a pretty good Rangers team 5-2.
The Maple Leafs are more than anyone thought they would be, especially, in the early going, for a handful of reasons:The Ron Wilson Effect: Let’s start with a disclaimer. Wilson and last year’s coach
Hunger: Don’t think that after three seasons in the minors, John Mitchell had any interest in going back to the American Hockey League. Mitchell has made the most of his playing time and established himself as a player willing to work the boards and head to the net. Likewise Dominic Moore who played with the Rangers and Penguins. He was waived by the Wild before finding what looks like a permanent home with the Leafs. Ian White lost his position and spot in the lineup. Against
Niklas Hagman: Just a terrific player. Hagman has three goals and eight points and has been the Leafs best forward. How talent-rich are the Dallas Stars that they could let this guy go?
Cliff Fletcher: Hagman was a Fletcher free-agent signing. So was Jeff Finger who has teamed with Schenn for the club’s most dependable pairing. He has set a steady as she goes atmosphere in a volcanic hockey market.
Speed: The Leafs are finally built for the post-lockout NHL. Jonas Frogren and Pavel Kubina will set no land-speed records but the rest of the defence is fast. The Leafs have enviable speed at forward thanks to Mikhail Grabovski, Moore, Mitchell, Hagman, Jason Blake and Nikolai Kulemin.
Fitness: The Maple Leafs are noticeably more fit than many of their opponents. Look at the way they blew by the Rangers on Saturday and dominated the last half of the third period against
Lowered expectations: Maurice and then-GM John
Defence:19th might not seem like that much for goals against but consider last season when the Leafs finished 27th.
Avoiding penalties: Sunday’s game in
Schenn: It’s not just that