Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 2
Sunday, October 10, 2010: Toronto 2-0-0, 4 points
Leading Scorers – C. Macarthur and P. Kessel, 2G, 1A, 3 points
The week’s first news came Tuesday with management putting Jeff Finger on waivers. Finger signed as a UFA in 2008 by Cliff Fletcher. A decent defenseman, he scored 6 goals and 23 points in 66 games his first season with Toronto. His numbers dropped to 39 games, 2G, 8A for 10 points the next season. A combination of his $3.5M per year and that he cannot seem to knock any of the top-6 off the blueline made the move inevitable. Burke is usually fair to his players, allowing them a way out of town or a chance to play. Finger is likely to be the first to come back if an injury hits. But, could Burke be moving assets to make room under the cap, in case a team like New Jersey needs help?
The road schedule began Wednesday in Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Centre, against a Penguins team not playing well and missing Orpik, Michalek, Asham and Staal. Coach Wilson took some heat for starting Gustavsson and sitting Giguere while nursing a 2-game winning streak. The Leafs were rewarded for some hard work early with a goal tipped in by Colton Orr off a Luke Schenn slapper (Orr would later leave the game after getting clocked by Deryk Engelland). Orr surprised us last year, doubling his career goal total by scoring 4 goals. This goal came against the Pens’ number 1 line, and early this season it looks like the Leafs are getting scoring support from everywhere. The Penguins did not have a shot on net until after 11 minutes, though that shot resulted in a Chris Kunitz powerplay goal as Schenn served 4 minutes for high-sticking. Max Talbot gave the Pens a lead going to intermission. But, the Leafs battled back, winning puck battles and causing turnovers, ultimately scoring 3 goals (Macarthur, Beauchemin, Macarthur), and withstanding a penalty-shot by Malkin before Crosby got his first of the season late in the second. The Penguins pressed in the third, outshooting the Leafs 9-2 (Leafs went almost 17 minutes without registering a shot on goal), but Gustavsson rewarded his coach’s faith by stymying Crosby, Malkin and company. The Leafs won their third game, something they didn’t do until game 15 last season.
Friday was a trip to Madison Square to visit old rivals the New York Rangers. The Rangers have had injury troubles, with Prospal out, Drury returning from a broken finger. Unfortunately, NYR lost both Gaborik (shoulder) and Drury (broke same finger) during the match. Rangers got out to a 1-0 lead, but Leafs took over the second period, scoring 3 (Macarthur, Komisarek, Kessel). Leafs’ powerplay has struggled this season, as they could not capitalize on a 4-on-3 that became a 5-on-3 for over 2 minutes total in the third period. The Rangers were inspired, and tied the game on 2 goals by Bryan Boyle and lots of agitation from Sean Avery. In their first overtime this season, the Leafs were blessed to get a powerplay on an interference call, and Phil Kessel notched his second of the game to seal the win and Toronto’s first 4-0 start in 17 seasons.
While it’s great to see the 4-0 start, Leaf fans will have to keep in mind a few things about this team. The lines seemed to have found their comfort level. Giggy and the Monster have so far provided timely saves. And while the PK is doing very well for a change, the PP is only mid-pack with 3 goals in 20 chances. The Leafs have also started healthy, but their first 4 opponents have had some key injuries. Certainly it’s a great sign that the Leafs have been able to capitalize on these opportunities to gain points, but we’ll have a truer idea of what this team is made of around the quarter pole. No one is planning the parade yet, but it is nice to see a team win.
The upcoming week sees the Leafs at home to the Islanders, then a rematch against the Rangers (who will still be without key players), before traveling to Philly for a Saturday night against the Flyers.