With the roster set, the real work begins for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By James Reeve1 year ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have set their roster for opening night against the Montreal Canadiens, and now the real work begins as they look to progress beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since before the 04-05 lockout.
The pre-season has gone about as well as anyone could hope for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who posted a 5-2 record against the Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings, with some impressive performances across all positions on the ice.
One of the biggest question marks over the team heading into the 2022-23 campaign comes between the pipes, with how well new goalie tandem Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov will perform. If their pre-season performances are anything to go by, the Leafs may well see an improvement on last season’s .900 save percentage. In their appearances during the pre-season, Murray posted a .970 and Samsonov had a .917, both exceptional in their own right and setting both up to hit the ground running when the regular season begins.
If the tandem runs as expected, Murray will be the team’s starter for as long as he is healthy, with Samsonov being a very able backup who looked stellar in his early career. Neither player will reach those heights across a full NHL season, but if they can both be above .900 throughout the year, then it will shape up to be another impressive regular season for the Leafs.
Add to that the strong performances from a number of the team’s new faces at the forward position. The Leafs look to have built what could be one of the most effective shutdown lines in the league this year with the additions of Zach Aston-Reese and Nicolas Aubé-Kubel on either side of David Kämpf’s wing.
Then there’s Calle Järnkrok, who was given a four-year deal this summer and looks to provide solid defence and depth offence on the third line and Denis Malgin, who may find himself playing in the top six far more often after an eight-point pre-season showing.
The defensive core remains this season, having impressed throughout last season, and with Mark Giordano slated to play right out of the gate it should see the Leafs once again compete at the very top of the Atlantic Division standings, especially with how much change the Florida Panthers have experienced this off-season.
Having a positive start to the year can do wonders for the players’ confidence, and it will be imperative that the team’s top talents get rolling early on. Mitch Marner had a phenomenal year last year, but took some time to really find his feet, and Auston Matthews will also be looking to secure a third consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy after scoring a historic 60 goals last season.
Players are getting closer to the end of their contracts, general manager Kyle Dubas himself is entering the final season on his current deal, and this year truly feels like a ‘go for it’ campaign for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The goal is simple: overcome the past six years of disappointment and at least reach the second round of the playoffs. Once that has been achieved, positivity and hope shall return to the ever-faithful fanbase and banish the demons over the past decade-plus.
Pre-season is a good start, but if the Toronto Maple Leafs truly want to be seen as a genuine contender, especially considering all of the talent they have on the roster as it stands, then they need to put in real work and get things going right from the first puck drop against Montreal this week.
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