Toronto Maple Leafs: Is This Year's Team Actually a Good One?
Why do I feel like I've seen this movie before? 23 games into the season and 28 points in the standings. Well, this is exactly where the Maple Leafs sat last season and all signs pointed toward the end of that long playoff drought. Then came the part of the movie where what we were watching on screen made us all sick. The All-Star break came and the proverbial wheels fell off.
After Monday night's come from behind 4-2 win over the Devils at the ACC, the Leafs sit fifth in the Eastern Conference after 23 games. 14 wins to give them the same 28 points as last year at this mark. But there's a different feel to this team than last year.
Monday night was proof of that. Trailing 2-1 against a reeling New Jersey squad after two periods, it was safe to say that you weren't in the minority if you thought back to the last few seasons and assumed that maybe the wheels were about to fall off again. Maybe this early success was all just an aberration.
But Toronto did it once again after three third period goals, leaving many to scratch their heads and say to themselves, "Maybe this team is just good." Is it possible that the blue-line depth that left long time NHL regulars like John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek as regular healthy scratches is for real?
Is it possible that James van Riemsdyk is morphing into that big body that can stand in front of the net and score 30 to 40 goals a season like Philadelphia thought he would be? Is it possible that Nazem Kadri's long development with the Marlies has finally paid dividends? And has the James Riemer/Ben Scrivens tandem put a hush to all of the talk of the need to acquire a number one goalie?
Those are all yet to be answered questions, but this team just has the feel of something different than we have seen in Toronto over the past few seasons.
They have yet to lose back-to-back games. Phil Kessel has still yet to find his potent goal scoring touch and the team has had much of this success without guys like Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner.
It seems as if this team is just that, a team. One that has bought into Randy Carlyle's system, but one who still has a lot to prove. One thing is for certain though, as April nears you get the feeling that this team will be one of the eight left to play another day when the shortened regular season comes to a close.
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