The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently tied with Columbus and New Jersey for second place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points after 6 games played to start the 2017/18 NHL regular season. Their record is 5-1-0 with a 2-1 record at home and 3-0 away. The Leafs goal differential stands at +9 and is bested only by the Philadelphia Flyers +10 and is 5 better than the conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. Who’s responsible? Let’s have a look. Tuesday night’s lineup against the Washington Capitals is a great example, so let’s start there.
Matthews between Nylander and Hyman on the first line, followed by what appears to be three 2nd lines. The official 2nd line consists of Bozak, van Riemsdyk, and Brown. Listed as 3rd are Marleau, Kadri and Komarov, then rounding out the forwards is the 4th line of Moore flanked by Martin and Marner. Wait, Marner on the 4th line? Who decided that? Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock, of course. Gutsy call? The Leafs beat Capitals 2-0. Leafs defense saw Hainsey with Reilly, Gardiner with Zaitsev and Rosen with Carrick. Andersen got the nod again in goal. All players on the Leafs who have played in all 6 games have registered points this season. In fact, Fehr is the only Leaf yet to register a point.
Wait, Marner on the 4th line? Who decided that? Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock, of course.
Overall Leaf’s scoring this season reveals that the Leafs’ best players are, in fact, their best players. It also shows that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines are forces to be reckoned with, making it difficult for other teams to defend against. Yes, Austen Matthews is close to carrying the superstar badge that comes with being the leader he already is. He is also proving to be a clutch player as well. This level of “teamosity” by Matthews and the rest of the Leafs begins with Babcock’s ability to get the players to buy into his system, and his ability to remain consistent in making decisions necessary to build a winning team.
The Leafs also played at home last night against the underdog Detroit Red Wings and won rather handily. Get used to this.