We're a little more than a month into the season, and I've got to say, the Leafs are not that bad. Ron Wilson has really given this team a long overdue identity. We are no longer the sluggish skaters of old. The Buds are now skating down pucks and pressuring other team's defensemen.
I've never seen players work as hard in a Leafs uniform than the way Dominic Moore and Niklas Hagman have been playing as of late, and they've been rewarded. Moore now has an "A" plastered on his chest. Hagman even better has inspired his rookie linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin to work hard.
As a result Hagman, Grabovski, and Kulemin have combined for eight goals and 19 points in the last seven games and have become the Leafs' top line. This is what I want to talk about this week, what is this top unit doing that makes them so good?
This steller play seems to be attributed to their European style of hockey, "Euro Style" if you will.
When a young Canadian boy is growing up, he is taught to dump the puck and chase, thus called "the dump and chase." The point of this is to beat the opposing defensemen and regain possession of the puck. It doesn't work every time though, sometimes amongst the banging bodies the puck will squirt free to the other team.
Well, what can you do besides the dump and chase? Nik Hagman knows. I give you "Euro Style", do as many spin-o-ramas, toe drags, and fancy passes as your heart desires. Hagman himself puts it best, "When you have the puck, it means the other team has to play defence and you don't have to play defence."
They must have taken this to heart because recently when ever this trio steps out on the ice, it looks more like a game of keep away than a professional hockey game.
How did European players learn this creative way of looking at the game of hockey? It's really quite simple. As North Americans, we've been taught the dump and chase are whole lives, but in Europe where the ice surfaces are larger, players are taught to hold on to the puck as long as possible. The logic, if you have the puck the other team can't have, it which means they can't score.
Well, I have to say it's working in Toronto, and let's hope it continues to. The wind of change is blowing in Toronto, and I am liking what I am seeing.