It was a fun week. More kids doing stuff. A couple of wins. What a fun time. The fun times seem to have started up around the same time as the new and improved power rankings, so we’re gonna keep rolling with the new format.
Few things have been as rare as a two win week for the Leafs this season. Having two defensemen promoted from the Marlies, normal. Having two players shut down for the season, normal, but TWO WINS?!
While tanking is fun, there’s the harsh reality that wins are going to happen, and when they can come on the backs of young prospects like Hyman, Soshnikov, and Nylander, that’s even better.
Then toss in Sunday’s win over the Red Wings, which was not only playing spoilers to the loathsome Red Wings and defeating Mike Babcock’s former team, it was also creating a bit of a cushion for Pittsburgh as they do everything in their power to not shoot themselves in the foot on the way into the playoffs.
2. BERNIER SHUTOUT
I can’t think of better words to describe a Jonathan Bernier shutout. I might be in the minority on this one, but I’d rather spend the next month seeing if the Leafs can salvage Bernier instead of learning what they have in Sparks. At the very least, maybe it will create a market for him this summer.
3. SOSHNIKOV IS SHOOTOUT MAGIC
Pretty goal is pretty.
4. HYMAN’S FIRST GOAL
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 8, 2016
He may not have the hype behind him that some of the other Leafs call ups have had, but Zach Hyman looks like he’s gonna be a Leaf for the foreseeable future and so far that doesn’t look like that will be a bad thing.
Hyman adds a bit more skill to the Leafs bottom six and will get fans a bit more invested in those lines which were previously Grabner, Spaling, and Clune just punching their time cards until free agency.
5. RINAT VALIEV MAKES HIS DEBUT
TGIF, baby pic.twitter.com/50Hj7dsasD
— The Tank Nation (@TLNdc) March 11, 2016
Now that Valiev has made his NHL debut the only two defensemen under contract with the Leafs who haven’t suited up for them this season are Andrew Campbell and Jared Cowen. It seems likely that Campbell will get his moment somewhere down the stretch, but Cowen is stuck sitting at home reflecting on how slow he skates.
Valiev played two games this week averaging just over 10 minutes. He’s still looking for his first NHL point, so expect that to factor into next week’s power rankings
6. NYLANDER IS CLUTCH
With 1:13 remaining in the 3rd, with the net empty, William Nylander let Toronto know that was ready to replace Dave Bolland’s clutchiness in the Leafs roster. I’d say consider this a practice run for Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018, but let’s be honest, the Leafs are going to sweep that series.
7. HUNWICK SHUT DOWN
Injuries aren’t fun and you don’t wish them on anybody but Raffi Torres. Still, Hunwick’s injury has opened the door for Valiev, Brennan, Loov, and Percy to have regular appearances in the Leafs lineup. His injury is letting us have a look at more viable defensive partners for Morgan Rielly, and he’s making the internet a happier place because my twitter timeline is no longer filled with people complaining about Hunwick’s ice time.
I (in)correctly standby the fact that Hunwick can be a very serviceable third pairing player on the Leafs, and he’s a good player to bring back next season since you don’t mind him getting bumped down the lineup as younger players pass him on the depth chart.
8. PITTSBURGH STILL IN A PLAYOFF SPOT
This kinda breaks my heart because Pittsburgh is a team I truly enjoy watching lose on regular basis, but since we need them to at least (and ideally) grab the last playoff spot in the East, we have to take joy in their present spot in the standings.
Being 4 points up over the 9th place team doesn’t seem like a huge advantage, but it’s a bit better when you consider the 8th (Wings) and 9th (Flyers) placed teams face off against each other tomorrow. The best outcome for everyone involved is that it’s not a three point game. If the Pens win their game tomorrow night against the Islanders they are in a much better situation, but that doesn’t change that Malkin being gone for 6-8 weeks will make this playoff race a nail bitter.
Too bad Kessel doesn’t like scoring goals anymore.
9. OUTDOOR GAME CONFIRMED
I feel the outdoor game gimmick has run its course. I don’t think there needs to be a Winter Classic, Stadium Series, Heritage Classic, and now a Centennial Classic.
That being said, these are very exciting events to attend in person and it’s as much about all of the attached events (alumni games, festivals, tailgating, etc.) that make them worth keeping around. I’ll also probably buy whatever jersey the Leafs come up with for this because I am a sucker.
All that being said, I’m sure this game will feature some of the steepest ticket prices and will definitely have to teams that are at best on the playoff bubble. I get wanting this event in the Centennial season, but wouldn’t it be much better to have the Leafs hosting an outdoor game when they are actually competitive?
10. STILL IN 30TH
Two wins and a loser point couldn’t help the Leafs this week, they still have four fewer points than the Oilers, Jets, and Flames, though the Oilers have played three more games.
As much as I wanted to believe the return of Connor McDavid would be enough to make the Oilers a competitive team, or at least competitive enough to take them out the race for 30th, I truly underestimated how terrible Edmonton is, and how poorly run their team is.
The Leafs are also beginning their longest homestand of the season, so the next six games might unfortunately push Toronto out of the basement.