The Toronto Maple Leafs have been surprising for the most part through a quarter of the season owning a 12-7-1 record.
The Maple Leafs currently sit tied for second in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Injuries and suspensions have recently limited their success. But thanks to a strong start to the season, the team still finds itself near the top of the standings.
It’s been a combination of stellar goaltending and offensive production spread out throughout the roster that has allowed Toronto to find early-season success. There’s no denying the Maple Leafs wouldn’t have the record they have through the first 20 games of the season if it weren’t for Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer playing between the pipes. However, the goaltending tandem has been helped out by having seven Maple Leafs already with double-digit points recorded on the year.
Bernier and Reimer have played a goaltender’s version of “anything you can I can do better” as they’ve taken turns standing on their heads and stealing victories for Toronto. It’s safe to say the Maple Leafs have recorded at least five or six wins on the season they didn’t deserve because they were badly outplayed but because of their goaltenders were able to win.
Having two goaltenders capable of stealing victories is an incredible bonus for Toronto given their recent struggles with the injury bug. Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland are both out with injuries and it’s unclear when either will return. Both were having great starts to the season and contributing significantly on the special teams. Bolland was even arguably the team’s best forward behind Phil Kessel.
Speaking of Kessel, he and his fellow American teammate, James van Riemsdyk, have developed an impressive chemistry that saw them routinely find the back of net in October. The duo combined for 31 points in 14 games during the first month of the season. Unfortunately, injuries to the team has left the Maple Leafs shorthanded which has allowed for the opposing defenses to put most of their focus on shutting down Kessel and van Riemsdyk. The duo has struggled in November, only managing to combine for three goals so far in the second month of the season.
After starting off the year playing some of the best hockey of his career, Dion Phaneuf also finds himself struggling in November. Phaneuf had seven points and was a plus-10 at the end of October but only has one point and is a minus-one through the first half of November. He’s still been solid defensively but like Kessel and van Riemsdyk, his numbers have suffered due to the shorthanded line-up.
As good as the Maple Leafs played to start the year, it’s been proven through the first half of November their success was largely due to the team’s depth. Removing multiple key members from the roster has limited Toronto in nearly every area imaginable besides goaltending.
If the Maple Leafs has any shot of returning to the playoffs then they need to get healthy again as they’ve shown recently they don’t have the depth to routinely find success. Their goaltenders might be able to stand on their heads a little longer but if they don’t get any support soon, things could get worse before they get better.