Maple Leafs: Keys to the Comeback

Comeback wins haven’t been a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs play book the past couple of seasons. Sure it’s early in the season, but this past Saturday the Leafs showed up in the third period to steal one away from the Ottawa Senators.

But it wasn’t just any win. It wasn’t just any normal comeback win. The team showed poise in making their way back in the third period. So what can the team take away from this win? What are the keys to making sure they can do it again – if they find themselves in that position?

Keys to the Game

Maple Leafs Discipline

One of the biggest questions coming out of last season, was the discipline of a Maple Leafs team that ranked first in fighting majors during the 2012-2013 season. Yes, they currently rank second in that same category this season with six – behind only the Montreal Canadiens – but the Leafs showed a lot of discipline in the final frame of Saturday’s game.

In fact, it was the first period through the first three games that the Leafs didn’t receive a single penalty minute. And it came when the team needed all of their players on the ice to mount the comeback and remain undefeated this season.

Sure, it was the top line of James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak who put home the 4-3 goal as well as the tying goal. But having a full attack is what ultimately led to these chances.

If the team can manage to stay out of the box – they have a chance to prove a lot of people wrong. One of the major keys – as it is every year for every team – is for them to stay out of the box. And they need to do it especially when it counts.

Maple Leafs Goaltending

Saturday was the first time Leaf fans and management had the chance to see the dual-goalie system in action. It’s not fair to put the blame solely on James Reimer for the four goals scored against him. But he certainly didn’t deliver any confidence to the team playing in front of him after the first two goals were scored.

After allowing four goals on 21 shots, Reimer was pulled mid-way through the second period. Enter Jonathan Bernier. Stopping all 15 shots he faced, Bernier turned a rough outing for his crease comrade into a win for his team.

This is going to happen – one goalie will have a bad outing and it will be good for the team to have another with the same ability ready to fill in. Many writers like Michael Traikos – from the National Post – and analysts have talked about the ups and downs of having two capable back stoppers on any given team. Well this is a prime example of why it can be a gift from the hockey gods to have that ‘problem’.

Maple Leafs, Comeback, Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Bernier is only part of the dual-goalie system in Toronto. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Maple Leafs and Mason Raymond

It might be seen as one of the best offseason acquisition – if he continues to impress as he has so far. Mason Raymond has been the talk of the team when it comes to offensive prowl and playing a two way game.

The 28-year old forward had 19 minutes of ice-time while play just over two and half on the power play against Ottawa on Saturday. He scored a goal and added two assists on only four shots and had two takeaways without giving up the puck.

He’s a player that didn’t really get a fair look in Vancouver – what with injuries and finding his way into Alain Vigneault’s dog house. But he’s a guy who has relished in his new opportunity with the Leafs.

He has four points and is a plus one rating so far this season with the blue and white, including a controversial shootout goal to seal the comeback win for his team against the Senators. His ability in the shootout also adds to a team that has struggled over the past few seasons with the tiebreak format.

If the Leafs can play with this type of tenacity and drive, it’s quite possible they will find themselves sitting amongst the top teams come playoff time. Add that to a powerplay that seems to be clicking so far this season and the blue and white are looking to open a lot of eyes in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division.



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