What a week for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Three wins in three games, all coming on the road against three opponents the Leafs historically don’t fare too well against.
But as always, with the good also comes the bad and the Maple Leafs still have some areas they could improve.
Although they did their job and picked up all six points this week, the Maple Leafs still have plenty of upside to their game that has only started to really show up in the last few games.
In a week where the Maple Leafs scored 15 goals in three games (not including one in a shootout), it is interesting to note that Phil Kessel was held to a mere two points this week—both assists.
Kessel continues to lead the scoring race and is finally getting help from people who aren’t his linemates.
Joey Crabbe pitched in with three points, including two goals. Clarke MacArthur scored a goal in each game. Tim Connolly showed he is getting over is injuries and providing consistent offence for his line.
But Kessel’s linemates provided the most offence during a week in which he was kept near the bottom of the scoresheet.
Joffrey Lupul had a point in each game, including two against his former team, the Ducks, and the shootout winner against Dallas. Tyler Bozak had two multi-point, multi-goal games this week as part of Toronto's top line.
If the Maple Leafs continue to play this way, it should keep the pressure off Kessel. It will allow him to relax and do what he does best, which is score goals.
The Leafs didn’t need him too often this week, but they will need him as the season continues.
Hopefully, this starts a trend where the rest of the team can show up on a nightly basis and relieve Kessel from time to time.
Jonas Gustavsson started three straight games this week, allowing six goals in nine periods of play. He blocked seventy-nine of eighty-five shots faced.
So why am I saying this is a bad thing?
Because this is not the Gustavsson we know. It would be great if it was, but up to this point in his career, it isn’t.
Maybe he is starting to turn a corner and realize his job as a backup netminder could be in jeopardy when James Reimer returns.
Maybe he realizes the Leafs have so much depth between the pipes that he needs to step up his game if the team is to extend his contract.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad Gustavsson has been able to keep the Maple Leafs in the thick of the race for the Northeastern Division lead. Sure, he looked a little shaky in the game against the Stars, but he responded well during the shootout.
If Gustavsson can keep this up, the Leafs will have a great problem on their hands—two goaltenders who can be starters.
I don’t want to get carried away on the Gustavsson bandwagon, but again, if the last three games are any indication, the Leafs' opponents could be in store for some long nights against the “Monster.”
The latest to visit the infirmary are David Steckel and Carl Gunnarsson. Both were injured blocking shots in Dallas.
The diagnosis is that they could be back sometime this upcoming week, which is good news considering how many of the Leafs are currently watching the team play from their homes.
Steckel is a faceoff machine and Gunnarsson is a key member of the defence.
It’s great that the Leafs were able to pull out a win over Anaheim without them in the lineup, but against other teams that excel on the power play, the Leafs will need Steckel to win those defensive zone faceoffs and Gunnarsson’s steady presence on the blue line.
Of course, any time a player is injured, it gives the team a chance to look at an up-and-coming player who may be able to fill in, which is what Toronto is doing with Keith Aulie.
Aulie played a good game against the Ducks; that's good news for Leafs fans going forward.
An impressive week with few downsides leads the Maple Leafs into a tough test this upcoming week.
Toronto's last game of November is a home game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Coincidentally, their first game of December is also against the Bruins, but it will be in Boston.
Last week, I said the Leafs needed to pick up at least three points against Tampa, Dallas and Anaheim; they got all six.
Look for the Leafs to pick up at least two points this week—either forcing two overtimes, or winning the home game.