We’re only a dozen games into the NHL season, but yes, if the playoffs started today, the Maple Leafs would be there. After last night’s “excited” 6-3 win over Vancouver, the young Buds are 5-4-3 – a mark I’m quite sure any Leaf fan would have been happy with at the start of the season.
And this a team you’d expect will get better over the course of the season. It’s amazing how Frederik Andersen has gone from looking like Hardy Astrom to Dominik Hasek in the span of a week…he made some all world saves Thursday in Buffalo. Perhaps Mike Babcock knew best after all in letting his #1 netminder ride out his rough start.
I still believe this is an evaluative year for this team…and I think the Leafs brass are prepared to let the current roster ride, and so are most fans. More solid performances from Andersen will give them a chance.
No doubt there will be some form of supplemental discipline in the forms of fines or suspensions from last night’s game which unfortunately could disrupt a lineup that seems to have found its rhythm. I still believe the shoulder was the initial point of contact on Nazem Kadri’s hit on Daniel Sedin, as you can see, his elbow is at his side.
Regardless, I still expect Kadri to get at least a game, given he did receive a five-minute charging major on the play. The rematch in Vancouver December 3 now has gong-show potential in what was otherwise a benign tale of two franchises heading in opposite directions.
The Leafs defensive play is still suspect – it was an absolute disaster last night when JVR and Bozak were on the ice with Gardiner and Polak at the same time. Despite that, overall defence seemed to improve when Matt Hunwick went on the injured list — addition by subtraction perhaps. I still don’t expect the Leafs to make a move to significantly bolster the blue line this season…but circumstances can change so never say never. Even with a leaky back end, Matthews, Nylander and Marner are dangerous every time they’re on the ice and, with solid goaltending as we’ve seen, they give this team a legitimate chance to compete every night. Fun to watch.
Respect for the #Raptors
Sat down and watched my first Raptors game of the season Friday night, and was impressed with what I saw. DeMar DeRozan seems to be using the SI snub as motivation to elevate his game to where it needs to be if this team wants to challenge Cleveland. Terrence Ross needs to have more nights like he did against Miami as consistency has always been his issue. And did any team have a better draft than the Raptors? Pascal Siakum and Jakob Poeltl have stepped right into this lineup to make positive contributions. Poeltl needs to bulk up – he lost a couple loose balls to Whiteside and Winslow he should have won – but again, these are two guys who will only get better as the year goes along. They’ll make them a good regular season team, but their inexperience is likely to show come playoff time. It’s very possible you see one of them dealt for a veteran in an area of need before the deadline. So long as DeRozan is playing at this level, the Raptors are clearly the #2 team in the Eastern Conference.