Many fans realized the Leafs were leading a bit of a charmed life heading into Boston on Thursday night. Not that the early going hasn’t provided some nice surprises and exciting moments (and 9 points in only five games!) but I think we knew their record could just have easily been reversed.
That said, I’m generally a fan of waiting until we’re ten games into the season before we start getting too high or too low, and twenty games before we make serious assessments in terms of what’s going on with the team—and individual players.
Leaf fans have to be satisfied with Toronto’s point total only six games into the season, for sure. In the same breath, I sense (and understandably so) that many Leaf followers are not exactly enthralled with how the team is performing overall.
They have a good record, yes, and have been a “comeback” club at times, but we’re still waiting for a few guys (more than a few, actually) to play as we think they can. Since we all managed to find things to criticize despite their great start, while it would be hard to proclaim anyone was a standout in a 6-2 loss, let’s look for some “positives” from Thursday night in Beantown:
- Kadri played with the big club before he even stepped on the ice for the Marlies (after being assigned there), what with Armstrong unavailable. (There we'll go again with that stat about the Leaf record when Armstrong is not in the line-up.) He picked up an early point and he may end up staying with the Leafs. He started to show a more determined, physical side to his game at times last season, and that carried over into the Boston game.
- The Monster finally got in and while fans weren’t unanimous in their approval on Twitter, he made some big stops and demonstrated, in case we had all forgotten, that he can play the position. He kept the Leafs in the game during the second period and made two outstanding stops early in the third to keep it close. He was less than stellar after the fourth goal, but he’s big, athletic and skilled. He’ll be a good goalie somewhere, I sense—hopefully in Toronto but more than likely somewhere else. (I’m hoping Wilson does not bury him on the bench now.)
- Steckel scored his first. He’s a fine face-off guy, obviously, but a little offense won’t hurt his playing time, including on the power play.
- Frattin continues to show he can play at this level. It’s a matter of time before the puck starts to go in for him.
From a broader team perspective, there are some things that require attention, of course.
- I'm no coach but Schenn needs to simply get back to playing his hard game. Eliminate guys like he did much of last season. Be tough along the boards and make simple plays. He started to show some of that Thursday night.
- Komisarek sat and I wonder where this leads? Fans can’t blame him for what happened in Boston. But we were hoping Komisarek would turn things around but an early season benching can’t help but make me wonder where things go from here.
- Gardiner is showing he wants a spot, and not just a spot but significant ice time. My view is that Phaneuf and Gunnarsson have been the “best” Leaf defensemen so far (small sample size, I realize, after only six games) and Gardiner looks very comfortable.
- I need to see more of Franson. I feel he has more in his game than we’ve seen in the three he has played so far. I sense he was affected by starting the season unexpectedly in the press box. No excuses, but given the kerfuffle afterwards, it may take him some time for him to feel completely comfortable here. (Some will want to jump on him for the fourth Boston goal Thursday night, but Phaneuf was caught flat-footed up ice and then was beat again down the ice…)
- Grabovski is certainly working, and he may in fact be trying to do too much. I know that’s a cliché, but it may be true here. The late goal, while “meaningless” on the surface, may spur him on and give him a shot of "goal scorer’s confidence". He and Kulemin have not quite been themselves but again, it’s early. Seldom do we see everyone clicking at the same time, though that’s what fans would like to see, of course.
Overall, Lucic played hard all night, Chara did what Chara does to take guys out of the game. It was hard not to notice young Seguin come back hard when he was gassed late in a power play when the Leafs had a shot at a short-handed chance. He dove head-long to tip the puck away and save a dangerous chance. For a young player, he showed some defensive awareness that likely made coach Julien take notice.
There’s no doubt a few Leafs that are not quite playing at the level we’d like to see, but others are perhaps playing better than expected. That’s the way it goes, eh?
Biggest concern may be the special teams. I’m not a big stats guy, but I know what I see and, well…I’ll leave it at that for now.
I’ll say it again, though, it’s early. Let’s talk more in depth after the ten game mark.