LEAFS' GREAT RUN ABOUT TO END

Steve Lansky
October 17 2010 04:57PM

 

Frankly, I’m astounded by the Toronto Maple Leafs’ start to this season. Based on what we’re seeing, there is now little doubt they will make the playoffs which is even more shocking. But, we all know the Leafs’ magical start to the season is about to come to an end.

It’s guaranteed that, by next Saturday against Philly, Toronto will have had their winning streak snapped. The end of the streak is irrelevant because, with it, they’ve set the foundation of fans’ expectations. It’s like they stood up on a stage, in front of about 2.3 million people and announced, “We’re gonna work our a**es off this year. Come watch.”

I am still not convinced Ron Wilson is a top-level NHL coach. Taking one team on the Stanley Cup Final in almost twenty years on the job (1998 Capitals) isn’t qualifying anyone for the Hockey Hall of Fame. But he seems to have figured out how to motivate his group. The players have channelled each other’s energy – feeding off each other.

That’s exactly why the joyride has to end soon.

THE END IS NEAR

 

No team can keep up that intensity for 82 games. They might be able to do it over a 25-game or a Stanley Cup Playoff run but the Leafs are several light years from that possibility right now. Over dinner, one time, an ex-NHLer told me, “A winning streak is just as easy to get on as a losing streak. It’s all just attitude.”

That is even truer in today’s NHL, where elite teams simply don’t exist anymore. The days of teams dominating the league over several years, like the Montréal Canadiens of the late 1970s or the Islanders of the early ’80s, are long gone. And that’s great for mediocre teams like the Leafs.

It means they have a real chance to win every game they play. After Friday’s win in Manhattan, Wilson said that any victories the Leafs earn early will be “in the bank” when the team hits rough spots during the remainder of the season. Two points now are just as valuable as two points in March. Not sure why fans forget that, but it’s fact.

What’s been most shocking thus far is the ease with which the Leafs have scored goals. They haven’t been held to fewer than three goals in any game. Even GM Brian Burke said their toughest hurdle this season would be goal scoring. Not so far. But their top three lines are simply not strong enough to maintain this pace for much longer.

EXPECTATIONS

Phil Kessel might end up with forty but, after that, it’s going to plummet fast.

Despite what living in the moment may tell you, Clarke MacArthur is not going to end the season with 40 goals. Neither is Tim Brent. The difference between teams that make the playoffs, and teams that miss, almost always comes down to one factor – their record in one-goal games. Toronto has four straight wins. Three of those were by one goal.

That alone is the most significant piece of their quick-start puzzle. It is, indeed, a brilliant start but it will end soon, so bask in it, Leafs’ fans.

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Steve Lansky's first exposure to the game was at storied Maple Leaf Gardens, running downstairs at the end of every period just to watch the great Dave Keon walk off the ice to the room. A decade later, while he was still in high school, Oilers' head coach Glen Sather asked Lansky, "Hey, how'd you like to be our team statistician?" In 1983, at the age of 22, Lansky became the youngest producer in the history of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, giving him a front-row seat to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty. Lansky also helped launch Rogers Sportsnet's fledgling hockey coverage when the network made its début in 1998. You can follow him at bigmouthsports.com and at twitter.com/bigmouthsports
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#1 OilFan
October 17 2010, 09:08PM
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Steve you write good stuff I hope the Leafs Nation picks up. GO OIL GO

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#2 Eric Johnson
October 17 2010, 10:54PM
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Thats right. enjoy while you can. The glaring offensive weaknesses will show themselves soon.

You also missed pointing out another team that dominated at will over other teams besides the Canadians and Islanders.... starts with an OIL.... won a few cups in the 80's.... beat the Islanders.... greatest player of all time.... Just sayin... ends in an ERS.....

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#5 CoryNewb
October 18 2010, 10:01AM
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82-0! They are already 4.8% of the way there!

In all seriousness, is the schedule tab at the top of this page updated? I don't have a "Leafs Desk Schedule" up at work....yet.

Isles, Rangers, and Flyers? There's no reason they can't be 6-1 come Sunday the 24th.

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#7 CoryNewb
October 18 2010, 01:24PM
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Steve Lansky wrote:

These will be three tough games this week. The first two are at Air Canada Centre - winnable. Next Saturday is at Wells Fargo Center in Philly - very tough.

I think if the Leafs wake up on Sunday with just one loss in the column, they will be elated. And they should be.

No doubt about any of that sir.

I think that tonight is going to be set the pace for the rest of the week... but the isles are out 3 of their top players, and don't look too good.

Rangers have just lost a huge amount of their offensive talent recently..

Pronger's elbow will be tough to score on, regardless of who is in net.

1 or 2 wins would still be great. 5-2 is nothing to sneeze at on 10/24.

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