The Toronto Maple Leafs recorded their first win of the season Sunday night. Leafs' fans and Head Coach Randy Carlyle can breathe a sigh of relief.
This was more than just a victory for the Leafs. All the players that were expected to perform did just that.
Forward Phil Kessel used his speed and stick-handling ability to create chances and was rewarded for his efforts. He ended the game with three points.
James van Reimsdyk and Nazem Kadri scored goals as well. Hopefully last night’s 6-3 road victory is a sign of things to come for this team. Carlyle should be very pleased with this result. His top line finally woke up and forward David Clarkson and defenseman Cody Franson provided some much needed secondary scoring.
The Leafs recorded two powerplay goals and one shorthanded goal throughout the game. Even Captain Dion Phaneuf tallied an assist. This is exactly the boost this team needed.
Strengthening the Leafs' powerplay units should be at the top of Carlyle’s list of things to improve on. Hopefully those two powerplay goals have proven that just shooting the puck rather than passing actually works better. If the Leafs can start converting powerplay opportunities consistently, they’ll be a much stronger team moving forward.
More Contribution from Defensemen
The Leafs defensemen did a wonderful job jumping into the play and taking away the Rangers shooting lanes. Leo Komarov and Franson kept things simple and took their opportunities. Captain Phaneuf needs to find a way to contribute more this season. He has a heck of a shot but doesn’t seem to like using it. If he just shot the puck more, he would convert more of his opportunities.
As team captain, he needs to step it up this season and contribute way more if this team hopes to challenge for a playoff spot. Phaneuf only scored eight goals last season. He needs to get at least 10 or more for the amount the Leafs are paying him.
The Leafs defensemen need to do a far better job protecting their goalies as well. Goaltender James Reimer got run over last year and took a knock to the head last night. Guys like Phaneuf and Clarkson need to retaliate and stick up for their goalie in that situation. This team cannot afford to have one of their goalies get injured this early in the season.
Regardless, this is a great victory for the Leafs. If they can build off this win and start winning games consistently early in the season, this team could easily challenge for a playoff spot. The challenge for the players now is to prove to the fans, management and coaching staff that this win wasn’t a fluke.
The Leafs next game is against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.