I finally gave up. I was the guy in the lawn chair smack dab in the middle of Maple Leafs Square outside the ACC since Toronto’s emphatic 5-1 dismantling of the Ottawa Senators Saturday night. I was finally talked down by my wife, who made the sensible point that I should hold out for a road victory before claiming my playoff seat to watch the boys in blue on the giant outdoor screen. Logic won out.
While every non-Leaf fan thinks this is exactly what Leaf fans do when their team strings together a couple of wins, the way the Maple Leafs have started the 2010/11 campaign is nothing short of impressive.
Eventually they’ll get scored on short-handed, but so far the difference between this year and last has been very evident to even the most elementary of observers (even Habs and Sens fans too):
1) DRASTICALLY improved goaltending.
2) Strong, crisp defensive play.
3) Excellent special teams (no, not a typo)
4) And the cherry on the sundae, SECONDARY SCORING to go along with just plain old scoring.
Here are some notes/observations through 2.43% of the schedule:
- Tim Brent. If this keeps up, the hockey remake of “Rudy” (I still tear up every time he tells his Dad he was accepted to Notre Dame, and when he finally gets in that game – I know it’s coming each time too)…we will aptly call this movie “Timmy”. The third line centre has been great so far this year, killing penalties, playing an effective shutdown game and even chipping in a couple of tallies.
- Phil Kessel is in shape, likes his line mates, has some chemistry with them, and is off to a fantastic start. He even looks faster this year, and is able to go longer into a game with his dynamic speed evident throughout.
- Tomas Kaberle – I’ll admit it; I was in favour of shipping him out…his strong start to the season is nice, and he looks GREAT paired with a post-sophomore jinx Luke Schenn. Let’s re-visit Tomas at the 20 game mark before we start calling for a long term extension.
- Nik Kulemin/Mikhail Grabovski/Clarke McArthur…not too shabby so far; they are involved, physical and have been responsible in all three zones. Love the way Kulemin and McArthur are using their size to their advantage down low.
- JSG – Giggy has been great. Is there any doubt the opener would be going to OT with Loss-kala in the pipes?
- Dion Phaneuf has asserted himself as captain, and he along with the A’s – Komisarek and Beauchemin – are playing within themselves; strong, reliable, physical defensive play…finally.
- Aside from the best duster in the league, Mike Brown is going to rapidly become a fan favourite in T-O…speedy, physical, kills penalties…quite a value considering his price tag.
- Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg are looking dynamic on a shift-by-shift basis; the points will come, along with the accolades and perks that go along with playing on the first line in the centre of the hockey universe when things are going well.
It’s not going to be all puppy dogs and ice cream the whole year; this young team will no doubt encounter some hiccups along the way, but let’s enjoy the start for what it represents: HOPE.
I would be remiss not to mention Jeff Finger being put on waivers; it’s not Jeff’s fault he signed for probably $2 million more per year than he should have, but it can’t be much of a surprise he is heading to the AHL, where strangely enough he won’t even be the highest paid defenseman in the league. Wade Redden and Sheldon Souray take that crown. Isn’t it ironic that these guys actually earn more in the AHL? No escrow payments down there…not a bad deal, but the competitor in all of us want to play in the show – these guys are no doubt chomping to get another shot.
It will be interesting to see how Brian Burke and Dave Nonis utilize that added cap space…
Enjoy the game tonight.
Follow me on twitter: @mbd_27
About the Author
Written by Mike De Petrillo
Leafs fan; former OHL LW; Live in Toronto