Ok, ok, even I was a little jacked up after Auston Matthews fired a laser beam past Anton Forsberg to give the Leafs a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Blackhawks Monday night to improve to 3-0 on the year. The offensive explosions in Winnipeg and against the Rangers that preceded that win certainly project an air of early-season invincibility around this team.
Make no mistake, there is real reason for optimism surrounding this team for the first time in nearly 20 years that this team — yes, THIS team — is an emerging contender. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s temper this with a couple small doses of reality.
First, while this team outshot Chicago, a team that vanquished the defending champion Penguins 10-1 the other night, by a count of 43-21, they have not played particularly well in their own end, and they know it.
Second, no one knows how healthy this lineup will be able to stay. They were among the lowest in games lost to injury last year, and one hopes that can continue — but the flip side of that is are they overdue? The relative youth of the team would seem to help them in this respect, but no one knows for sure.
Third, it’s unclear whether salary cap issues could hamper the Leafs ability to add to the roster at the trade deadline if need be. You need to be able to do that in this day and age to make a deep playoff run. There’s no question the prospect and draft pick pool is deep to make a significant deal if necessary, but at the end of the day, we live in a cap world.
But let me be clear — this team has all the weapons it needs (save for that centrepiece defenceman) to give any team in the NHL a run for its money, whether it be on any given night or in a 7-game playoff series. For now, let’s just have fun watching the most exciting Leafs team in at least a generation.