Ah the life of a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. The blissful and jubilant good times, the bleak and gloomy down swings. It really is an emotional rollercoaster for the most loyal and true supporters of Leafs Nation. I get it. Fans want them to succeed so badly that they invest an inordinate amount of time, money, and emotion towards the team. Given all that the fans invest, it’s absolutely acceptable and somewhat predictable, that the mood of Leafs Nation can change quicker than the weather on a fall day in Northern Ontario. I think that this emotional instability is in part due to a larger trend within society, one that often has us focus so much on the micro that we tend to lose perspective of the macro. It seems to be particularly true for Leafs fans, as the collective can go from planning the parade route at one moment to seeking citizenship to tank nation at the next. Hence the focus for this eight part series. Instead of breaking down the execution of the Leafs from shift-to-shift or period-by-period, I aim to provide a broader perspective of the Toronto Maple Leafs performance by delivering a retrospective every ten games. I present to you part one of eight in Take It By Ten Toronto.
Take It By Ten Toronto – Playing .500 After Ten Games
Ten games played, eleven points secured, 72 games to go. The season is still relatively young for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and after the first ten games the club is playing right at the .500 level. There have been moments of sheer brilliance, and moments of utter frustration. The biggest takeaway from the first ten games for me is that the Maple Leafs are still working on establishing consistency in their play. A record of 5-4-1 has the Maple Leafs ninth in the East, but game nine and ten saw the Leafs string together their second two-game winning streak this year. Wins over the Rangers and the Avalanche helped the Maple Leafs build some early confidence after a loss in the season opener to Montreal, which was followed up by a lackluster performance in a 5-2 loss to the Penguins.
A home-and-home against an original six rival in the Detroit Red Wings proved fruitless for the Maple Leafs, as Toronto could manage just a single point from a possible four. Leafs Nation seemed frustrated by the old tendencies coming to the forefront again. Sloppy and inconsistent stretches of play, a lack of trust and ice-time for the bottom six, and soft defensive play which often equates to the individual and team effort coming into question. With games against a red-hot New York Islanders team, their provincial rivals Ottawa, and their recent nemesis the Bruins, it looked the things were likely to get worse than better. But the Leafs had an explosive second period against the Iles and rode that offensive outburst to a 5-2 win.
The tragic events of October 22nd in Ottawa rightly saw the NHL postpone the game between the Leafs and Sens to November 9th. The Leafs had a home game versus the Bruins awaiting them, and the Leafs caught a big break. The Bruins learned that their punishing defenseman Chara had suffered a knee injury and the Leafs were Boston’s first opponent without “Big Z” in the lineup. But a disappointing performance by Toronto ended with a 4-1 loss to the Bruins. Ups and downs, highs and lows, eight games in and the Maple Leafs were as streaky as ever.
Game nine against Buffalo proved to be the Leafs most dominant and complete game of the season to date, an important 4-0 win. Another solid effort from Toronto and another four goal night led the Leafs to a 4-1 win over the injury depleted Blue Jackets. Ten games down, eleven points secured, 72 to go. All things considered, the Leafs were both good and bad in spots.
There were a number of personnel changes including the acquisition of Richard Panik. Stuart Percy was seemingly Toronto’s best defenceman through the first three games, however a few games later Percy was a healthy scratch and on October 26th the Leafs would send Percy down to the Marlies. Four days later, Percy is back with the big club. Two days after that, without even drawing into the lineup, Percy is sent back down to the AHL. Typical Toronto.
Robidas and Polak continue to draw substantial minutes despite a slow start, the same flaws that Phaneuf and Gardiner exhibited last year are omnipresent through the first ten games, and Kadri’s season is cold as ice with only two goals and no assists going into Columbus. Even goaltending was shaky at first, particularly Bernier, but after the first week of play both he and Riemer have given the team stable, timely goaltending, and with that a chance to win. Ten games down, eleven points secured, 72 games to go, currently on pace for 90 points.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
|Tyler Bozak||4 G||6 A||10 PTS||0 +/-||2 PIM||3 PPG||54.7% faceoff||+10 GvA/TkA||18:58 TOI/g|
|David Clarkson||3 G||1 A||4 PTS||+1||12 PIM||25 Hits||5 BkS||-1 GvA/TkA||15:44 TOI/g|
|Leo Komarov||0 G||6 A||6 PTS||+1||0 PIM||40 Hits||4 BkS||+10 GvA/TkA||15:28 TOI/g|
|Nazem Kadri||3 G||1 A||4 PTS||0 +/-||4 PIM||0 PPG||44.2% faceoff||-1 GvA/TkA||16:28 TOI/g|
|Richard Panik*9 GP*||1 G||0 A||1 PTS||0 +/-||0 PIM||10 Hits||6 BkS||0 GvA/TkA||7:27 TOI/g|
|Matt Frattin*4 GP*||0 G||0 A||0 PTS||0 +/-||4 PIM||2 Hits||2 BkS||-1 GvA/TkA||6:54 TOI/g|
|David Booth||IR||Injured on Oct 7||Broken Foot||Booth making progress|
|Brandon Kozun||IR||Injured on Oct 18||High ankle sprain||Out for 6 weeks|
|Joffrey Lupul||Day-to-Day||Injured on Oct 31||Broken hand||Out for 3 weeks|
Nicco Cardarelli writes about all things Toronto Maple Leafs for TheHockeyWriters.com. Nicco has PxP & Color commentary experience calling IIHF, Hockey Canada, OHL and CWHL games. Follow Nicco on Instagram and Twitter @BroBehindTheMic.