I’m not sure we can make many (any?) definitive pronouncements about the Leafs, three games into the 2014-’15 NHL season. Opening night against the still unbeaten Habs could have gone either way, though it’s difficult to say the same about the Pittsburgh game.
Against the Rangers, if we were looking for a classic “bounce back”, we saw it. Carlyle made a couple of roster moves—Reimer in for Bernier, not a surprise; Franson in for Gardiner, a surprise to me—and the team looked as though it was tired of losing. The result was a 6-3 win on the road at Madison Square Garden.
Early season observations:
- Franson provided an instant jolt of offense in his first game back from injury. He’s always had a knack for getting the puck to the net, and if he can be a steady presence on the blueline, he should keep a spot in the lineup.
- If Franson reclaims his customary role as a regular on the blueline, who sits? The impressive rookie, Percy? The veteran Robidas? Surely not Rielly. Maybe Polak, though Carlyle likely appreciates his defense-first approach.
- Rielly and Gardiner are an intriguing defensive pairing: two individuals with offensive inclinations—and significant skills. They can skate like the wind and move the puck effortlessly. But will they have the approach needed to be as successful in their own zone? The early returns were mixed before Gardiner sat Sunday night.
- Jonathan Bernier just needs to be Jonathan Bernier. He has made some outstanding saves in the first couple of games, but didn't look quite like the game-stealer we saw much of last season. He should be fine. Getting some late action and playing well in the win in New York may help.
- Komarov has been pretty much what we remember of him. A pest that you prefer having on your side. Kozun started well but we’ll see if the training camp energy can last.
- Any concerns about the top line likely dissipated after the win in New York, though Lundvquist was not nearly at his best. Bozak with 3 goals already.
- I think most of us have been impressed with Percy’s poise early on. He has played 20 minutes a night. You can never have too many capable defensemen. We now have seven on the roster.
- Kadri has shown his customary offensive jump—puck smarts, great hands and vision.
- I’m not sure what to make of the Lupul trade rumours. Would we be selling high? We need ‘top six’ forwards, and he can certainly be one. At 31, you'd think he brings the kind of moxie and veteran experience a team like this needs.
- We’re at a point in time where Holland needs to demonstrate he is a player who belongs in the lineup every night.
In any event, credit to Reimer. He did not have to steal a game or play extraordinarily well, but he earned the win and did what we needed him to do, after losing our first two games at home. His third-period injury is a concern, though.
A couple of questions: is there a Leaf who has surprised you, or that you feel has provided even more than you expected in the early going? Conversely, are there guys who need to do more?
The Leafs are healthy. No suspensions to complain about this season. A lot of these guys have been around for years now. The playoffs should be a minimum objective for this organization—and for us as fans. The win in New York helps get things going in the right direction.