Toronto Maple Leafs Improve to 3-0: How Long Can They Keep It Up?
The Toronto Maple Leafs improved their record to 3-0-0 on Wednesday night, with a 4-3 victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins. During their three-game winning streak, the Leafs have also defeated their biggest Northeast Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.
However, with a second line made up of Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur, and a top line in which no player is over the age of 24, just how long can the Maple Leafs continue their winning streak?
Many fans are already jumping to conclusions, saying that the Maple Leafs will have a big season, make the playoffs and contend for the Stanley Cup. Although the playoffs are a possibility, the Stanley Cup is not a reality.
In order for the Maple Leafs to make the playoffs, both Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson need to remain healthy and be consistent. So far, Giguere has done exactly that through two games, while Jonas Gustavsson showed plenty of upside Wednesday night against Pittsburgh.
Giguere, who won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, is the perfect goalie to play with Gustavsson. The 33-year-old is still a very good player in the NHL and knows what it takes to play in the National Hockey League. Gustavsson, who played well in his rookie season, posting a goals against average of 2.87 and a save percentage of .880, can learn a few things from Giguere.
However, in order for the two to put up good numbers, they will also need some help in front of them, something the team has not improved on this season.
The Maple Leafs defense has allowed 71 shots against through three games, 13th best in the NHL. Last season, the Maple Leafs allowed 2,440 shots against, also 13th in the league.
In order for the Maple Leafs to play better defensively, Dion Phaneuf will need to step up his game. If the way he played Wednesday is any indication of his play in the future, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek, will all need to keep playing the way at their current level.
If there is a bright spot on the Maple Leafs defense early in the season, it's the penalty killing units. With a success rate of 90 percent, the Leafs are the fifth best penalty killing team in the league. Last season, the Leafs killed just 74.6 percent of their penalties, which put them 30th in the league.
The Maple Leafs can keep playing the way they are and be successful for now, but once they start running into teams like the Washington Capitals, the defense will need to be stronger.
The Maple Leafs forwards, on the other hand, have been nothing short of impressive.
Clarke MacArthur has at least one goal in each of his three games as a Leaf. He has a total of four goals and five points on the season. Phil Kessel has two goals and an assist, Nikolai Kulemin has a goal and two assists, Mikhail Grabovski has three assists and Kris Versteeg has scored one goal while adding an assist. In short, the players who are expected to perform have been living up to expectations.
But what has gone unnoticed by a lot of fans and media members, is that the Leafs have been spreading the scoring up and down the lineup.
Luke Schenn, Tim Brent and Mike Komisarek all have two points, while Colton Orr, Mike Brown, Mike Zigomanis and Tyler Bozak each have a point. Keep in mind that the season is only three games old.
Nevertheless, if the Maple Leafs top line is going to become their best line, Tyler Bozak will need to start producing in order for Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel to put up big numbers.
Overall, the only area to be more than normally concerned about is the defense. As long as the forwards can keep putting up their current numbers, the Maple Leafs will be in good shape for another week, at least, though it is a little early to start getting excited.
Not to say that it will happen, but let's not forget, the last time the Maple Leafs started a season 3-0, in 1999, they won the division.
**Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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