The Toronto Maple Leafs are 5-1 in their first six games of the season. They have scored 29 goals on the year while recording 10 of a possible 12 points. Their fast start has been complemented by scoring from Auston Matthews, who leads the NHL in goals with 10.
Matthews has four two-goal games while scoring a goal in all six games the team has played in. He is the third player in Toronto Maple Leafs franchise history to score a goal in each of the team’s first six games of a season.
John Tavares, the free agent who signed with the team over the summer, with a seven-year, $77-million contract, has scored six goals so far this year and registered four assists in the team’s 5-3 win over Detroit on Thursday. The star forward has 10 points on the year as he has transitioned with his new club since leaving the New York Islanders, after playing there for the past nine seasons.
Defenseman Morgan Rielly has been dominating on the blue line for the Maple Leafs, recording three goals with 13 points. He passed Bobby Orr for the most points by a defenseman in his team’s first five games in the last 100 years.
Center Mitch Marner has scored three goals with 10 points and has recorded at least one point in four of the six games played this season. The 21-year-old is coming off a career season when he scored 22 goals, along with 47 helpers, in only his second year in the NHL.
Maple Leafs Leading the Stat Sheet
The NHL has four players with 10 or more points and all of them play in Toronto. The team is 8-for-17 on the power play. Fifteen Maple Leafs have recorded at least one point already as they are averaging just under five goals per game. The team is scoring points at a very high pace without their veteran center William Nylander, their third-leading scorer last season with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists), who is currently an unsigned restricted free agent at odds with the club. He has yet to suit up this season.
The team’s numbers are outstanding, but it is only six games. Can the Maple Leafs keep this pace up for the whole season? Past history says no, but past teams didn’t have the firepower the Leafs currently have. Another interesting fact to look at is the teams they have faced. In the six games played only one team, the Washington Capitals, were in the playoffs last season. Montreal, Ottawa, Chicago, Dallas, and Detroit all missed the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. The hard work is still ahead for the team.
They have so many different weapons teams need to defend against. If a team tries to stop Matthews’ line, Tavares will bring his line to the ice to cause havoc. On the power play, teams have to try to defend what may be the best unit in the league — Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Rielly and Nazem Kadri. It is like defending an All-Star line every game.
The Maple Leafs’ biggest detriment might be its defense. The team has given up 22 goals in its 6 games, but the team has time to adjust, and their offense will carry them a long way as they will win many games with their high powered offense.
The True Toronto Test Lies Ahead
The team was considered a Stanley Cup contender prior to the signing of Tavares, and now they have to be looked at as one of the best teams in the NHL. The only way the Leafs will start to struggle is if they beat themselves.
It may only be six games into the 2018-19 season for the Leafs, yet this team is flying high and all appear to be on the same page—a dangerous situation to play against for any other team in the NHL.
The true test for the team will come over the next week when the Leafs play three home games against the Kings, Penguins and the Blues. A true testament of how good this team could be will be revealed throughout the week.
These are bound to be some high-scoring games that should be fun to watch.
A graduate of St. John’s University in 1991 in Athletic Administration, I have been an avid hockey fan for all my life. I blog for the New York Rangers and can be found on Facebook / RangerProud as well as on twitter @FrankCurto, @RangerProud.