Notwithstanding the broken forearm suffered by Joffrey Lupul who took a Dion Phaneuf shot in the Penguins game that will keep him out for six weeks, it’s been a pretty good week for the Leafs with some encouraging early signs.
1. The Randy Carlyle message is starting to get through.
After watching the first three games of this short season there’s no question the Leafs (2-1)are becoming more defensively minded, allowing only five goals. Even their 5-2 win over the Stanley Cup favourite Penguins were kept to two goals on home ice. Carlyle’s shuffling of lines hasn’t affected the bottom line for forwards: Everybody backchecks baby. It’s a lot of work for forwards still finding their legs but it’s paying off as the Leafs’ shaky defence is asked to do a little less and that’s is a good thing.
2. Scrivens and Reimer: So far, so good
The Roberto Luongo trade rumour-du-jour hasn’t adversely affected the play of the goaltenders Toronto does have. Now that James Reimer has a win under his belt, everyone’s breathing a little easier. Both have had shaky moments but came up with saves at key times. Playing time will take a deft hand but Carlyle seems to have the answer so far. Will it be a “win and you’re in” approach or go with more of a gut feeling or based on match-up history?
3. Players starting to show up
There’s no way to put a positive spin on the loss of Joffrey Lupul for up to six weeks. He was expected to be big part of an offence that needs all the scoring it can get. That said, Nazem Kadri with three points in three games is getting the chance to show what he can do. James van Riemsdyk is also now on the scoresheet with two goals. Grabovski and Kuleman are making solid contributions. Kessel remains the obvious choice to pick up the scoring slack but will he?