15 Signs That Point Up
1) The Maple Leafs have slogged through one of the toughest schedules across the league for the month of October, playing only three teams below the .500 mark, and currently sit 4-3-3.
2) If the Leafs were to surprise this year, the supposition was that Vesa Toskala would be stealing the show on a nightly basis. And this just might be the most remarkable development of the season thus far – the Maple Leafs have mustered a winning record despite less-than-spectacular play from their Finnish netminder. Toskala’s struggled with consistency, posting a sub .900 record in the month of October despite a 4-2-2 record.
3) Special Teams – The supposedly punchless Leafs’ offense currently sits sixth league-wide in power-play efficiency (22%). After starting the year off terribly in this respect, simply creating traffic in front of crease appears to have made all the difference. This is definitely the formula for powerplay success for a team that’s not overly proficient offensively. Penalty-killing is similarly on the mend. Once near the league basement in this category, the Leafs now sit 19th (79.1%) in penalty-killing success having improved significantly over their last five games. Thanks in part to improved discipline, the Leafs have only allowed one short-handed goal in their last five contests.
4) Alexei Ponikarovsky, a player whose future in Toronto beyond the pre-season was dubious after suspect play in the primers, has quietly recorded 9 points in the team’s 10 games. Ponikarovsky’s been known to blow hot and cold offensively, but this is perhaps the year when he makes a case for himself as a top 6 player. Even in his cold spells production-wise, he’s consistently a responsible back-checker and ardent fore-checker. I think Poni’s given a raw deal in this city, especially when you factor in his highly-economical contract.
5) Line-mate Nik Antropov has thus far proven himself the real deal sans Sundin (4 goals, 4 assists for 8 points in 10 GP, +5).
6) Ron Wilson’s jolt-tactics have so far proven fruitful. Matt Stajan’s kick in the pants worked wonders. Jason Blake is still awful, but at least he’s driving the net.
7) After witnessing Dominic Moore’s sheer brilliancy so far this season, I’m considering upgrading JFJ’s tenure from “catastrophe” to “debacle” status.
8) Marty Brodeur, in his long, illustrious career, has never seen more rubber than he did Wednesday night. Every Leaf player registered a shot in the 65 minutes of play.
9) It was just one game, but I can confidently state that the Maple Leafs are a faster team than the Ottawa Senators. How often in the post-lockout era have we seen Ottawa skate circles around an antediluvian-style Maple Leafs team? The Leafs have finally gotten with the post-lockout times… credit to Cliff Fletcher.
10) Ron Wilson may have found four lines that click. Obviously they have to stand the test of time, but the current units seem to be well-balanced and concordant.
11) The Leafs are on pace for 41 fights on the year, a figure that nearly matches their total for the last two seasons’ combined. The team’s primary bruiser is Jamal Mayers, who’s dropped the gloves three times this month. Mayers has racked up a 2-1 record according to hockeyfights.com, convincingly outdueling both Tom Kostopoulos and Marc Staal while narrowly falling to David Clarkson according to the site’s rating percentages. As for Luke Schenn and Ryan Hollweg, particularly the latter, it’s the effort that counts. It’s more than can be said about the craven “teams” (if you can call them that) of the past two seasons.
12) It’s possible for the Leafs to win a shoot-out without a change in the rulebook allowing them to cycle behind the icing line or generate traffic in front of the crease. Although Hagman may have found an innovative way of creating his own traffic.
13) It’s been suggested that results will regress once the luster of a new coach wears off. At the same time, Vesa Toskala’s yet to hit his stride and many of the Leafs’ secondary scorers may just be awakening (we’ll have to wait and see about that). Something about Ron Wilson, it may be his always-discontented demeanor or perhaps that weird mole that protrudes into his eye space, suggests he’ll accept nothing less than an honest effort on a consistent basis.
14) Luke Schenn’s here to stay. At this point, there’s no knowing whether it was a judicious move or not to keep him aboard this season – only in retrospect will we know the answer – but the soon-to-be-19-year-old is a treat to watch nonetheless.
15) This is a far more lovable, entertaining and respectable team than that of the previous three years. Each win is considered a bonus considering the evolving state of the franchise and subsequent lack of expectations, and it appears Leafs fans have gotten more than they bargained for ten games into the 2008-’09 season.
If you haven’t yet explored the Barilkosphere, you’re missing out. Check out this fine array of Leafs bloggers and bloggettes:
- Pension Plan Puppets
- Battle of Ontario
- Big Smoke Sports
- Bitter Leaf Fan
- Cox Bloc
- Die Hard Blue and White
- Down Goes Brown
- He Score, He Shoot!
- Leafs at Hockey Analysis
- Maple Leafs Hot Stove
- Old Guys in Blue and White
- The Passion That Frustrates Us All
- Repressed Optimism
- Sports and the City
- Toronto Sports Media
- Wonderful World of Loser Domi