Earlier this week, I asked a question. Which member of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the one to step up and shine in the absence of Joffrey Lupul? In case you haven’t been paying attention, allow me to get you up to speed. The once laughable Maple Leafs squad is becoming a bunch of thrill seekers. They are in search of possibly punching their ticket to the postseason for the first time in nine years. That has fans of Leafs Nation savoring every point their boys in blue work so hard to get.
It’s no secret that as a franchise on hockey’s biggest stage, the Leafs have had their successes and failures. The good thing about this season is that now Toronto has a group of young guns that are far more mature than their age would have you believe. Coach Randy Carlyle has stressed to his squad about doing the little things. Obviously Coach Carlyle would like to win every game they play, but the chances of that happening are slim.
Carlyle’s mantra is “Just give us a chance to win, just a chance.” The players have bought into what Randy is selling, and this is evident. I firmly believe that the reason the Maple Leafs are having success on the ice is because Carlyle is a former NHL player that understands a player must have pride in the logo on his jersey.
Of course every one and their sister is a Leafs fan when they win, but what happens when they get bitten by the injury bug? It is a shortened season of just 48 games. It is also a more physical game than in years past. Every point is crucial in a shortened season.
If the Maple Leafs could stay healthy, the fan base knows they could have a shot to be in the playoff picture. The real test for the Maple Leafs would come when James Reimer went down due injury and of course the injuries to Lupul. Players like James Van Reimsdyk, Ben Scrivens, Nazem Kadri, Dion Phanuef and Phil Kessel have taken control of the ship and are keeping it from spiraling out of control.
Speaking of Kessel thrilling fans this season, his efforts this past week got him noticed by the league and because of his efforts on offense he was awarded the league’s second star. “Phil the thrill” was red hot last week netting five goals, including seven points in three games. The 25-year-old Madison, Wisconsin, native has played in 41 games this season and leads the Maple Leafs with 27 assists and 42 points.