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The penalty kill: the best part of the early season for the Maple Leafs

Ottawa looked sluggish at times Saturday night, playing their second game in two nights.  But the Leafs took advantage and pushed the play, putting themselves in a position they have not often been in, in recent years: winning a game going away.

Speed is so important and the Leafs appear faster in the early going than they have looked most of the time in recent years.  (Desire, and skill, will do that for you.)  Again, it’s way too early in the season to say they have turned a corner, but the effort is there, the willingness to play the body is there.  They are faster to the puck.  The thing I really like is that the penalty kill was aggressive and effective in the first two games.  Players moving their feet.  Good, active sticks.  They weren’t passive when killing penalties.  This is a huge step forward compared with last season.

How long can this last?

No one knows, but we do know that winning two games puts points in the bank.  And wins against Eastern Conference teams are obviously important, and will be in April when standings tend to get bunched up.

They moved the puck well on the power play and could easily have scored more than the one goal with the man advantage.

Two games is hardly a streak, but two games can certainly start to build momentum.  So far, my earlier stated concerns about a lack of depth on the forward lines has not been in evidence, as all four forward lines have contributed.

In short, the Leafs will be better if they continue to:

o       Go to the net
o       Use their speed
o       Move their feet
o       Stay aggressive on the penalty kill
o       Move the puck quickly on the power play
o       Finish their checks
o       Make it hard for opposing forwards in front of their own net

Of course, that is a recipe for success for any hockey team.  But it’s not a recipe we have been familiar with in these parts for the few seasons.

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