Here’s the stat of the year for you right here. Ready? The Leafs have gone all year without a powerplay goal from any of their defensemen. Yes, this includes Kaberle and Beauchemin. If you were to tell me at the beginning of the year that the Leafs’ defense wouldn’t have a powerplay goal 60 games into the year, and they would still be in the playoff race, I wouldn’t believe it.
But the one thing that the Leafs’ defensive core has done better lately, is playing defense. And defense wins championships, right?
Luke Schenn has been a monster for the Leafs so far, posting a plus-three rating. Not bad for a guy playing for a team with a minus 28 goal differential. As for Phaneuf, while he hasn’t brought the offensive numbers over from Calgary, he hasn’t been a defensive burden like he was at the beginning of the season. Over the past few games he’s logged some serious minutes and has played good physical hockey.
But what about the departure of Kaberle and Beauchemin? Two youngsters, Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson, have been able to fill the void quite nicely and have played some solid minutes. If the Leafs’ defense continues the strong defensive play that they’ve been displaying as of late, the likelihood of playoff hockey in Toronto increases dramatically.