It’s Friday! As if that weren’t reason enough to smile, the Leafs begin the day only 3 points back of a playoff berth.
While the odds remain slim that they will make it into the postseason, the win-or-bust push has certainly ratcheted up the excitement level in Toronto. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
With that in mind, here are ten things to feel great about this morning:
(1) With seven games remaining, Phil Kessel (29), Mikhail Grabovski (28) and Nikolai Kulemin (28) give the Leafs a realistic chance to boast three 30-goal scorers in a single season for the first time since 1995-96 (Gartner, Gilmour, Sundin).
(2) Kulemin’s 28 goals put him one behind Alexander Ovechkin for the league’s leading Russian scorerï»¿
(3) At 29 goals, Kessel is tied with Ovechkin and Eric Staal. Allow that to sink in for a moment.
(4) 11 of Kessel’s 29 goals, and 10 of Grabovski’s 28, have come with the man advantage. This is impressive considering how woeful the Leafs’ power play has been all season, and leads one to wonder how many more they could have if the Leafs could ever figure out consistency on special teams.
(5) Kulemin’s 23 even-strength goals put him in a tie for 10th overall with Ovechkin and Matt Duchene. That’s some good company. Also, refer back to the above comment.
(6) Carl Gunnarsson, who has (unsurprisingly) struggled in his sophomore campaign, was a +3 (!) last night. When he’s relaxed and focused, and not trying to do too much, he can be very effective. After a few rough outings in the wake of the Kaberle trade, Gunnarsson seems to at last be adapting to an increased role on the blueline.
(7) Mike Komisarek has been quietly effective the past four games, with 9 hits and 4 blocked shots and an even +/- in a third-pairing role during that span. Slowly, his game appears to be coming around. His perfectly-timed hit on Mark Olver last night was a game-changer — and exactly the sort of difference-making play the Leafs were expecting when they signed him. Turning Cameron Gaunce’s face into Burger King in the subsequent fight was an unexpected — and most pleasant (well, for everyone except Gaunce) — surprise.
(8) James Reimer improved his road record to 12-3-1. With four of the seven remaining to be played on the road, this is beyond encouraging.
(9) Despite Reimer’s home record sitting at a rather pedestrian 5-4-3, the splits show an identical GAA (2.51) both home and away appearances, with his save percentage varying only slightly (.922 home, .925 road). In other words, the team’s struggles at home have far more to do with offensive inconsistency than the play of the goaltender.
(10) The Leafs’ remaining schedule has them facing Detroit (R), Buffalo (H), Boston (R), Ottawa (R), Washington (H), New Jersey (R), and Montreal (H). Their combined record against those teams? 13-9-4.
Got more things to feel great about today? Feel free to add them in the comments below!
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,