Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is finally back. The Leafs’ expectations coming into the 2017-18 season are sky high for the team, especially after the surprise playoff berth they achieved last year.
The Maple Leafs opened their season by thumping the Winnipeg Jets to the tune of 7-2. It was a massive win for the Leafs, who made a huge statement on opening night. There are some interesting takeaways from the win, which we will explore in depth below.
Leafs Penalty Trouble
I’m certain that Mike Babcock is not happy that the Leafs were short-handed eight times over the course of the game. The coach will preach discipline to his squad and will say that eight penalties are simply unacceptable.
Toronto will cut down on the penalties as the season goes on. For instance, I predict that Leo Komarov will figure out his visor problem and will not be penalized for an equipment violation again this year.
It was also the first game of the season and the referees are cracking down on other equipment violations. Eric Fehr and Connor Brown were warned about their jersey tucks while Frederick Andersen had to have his blue goalie tape changed to white.
Another crazy stat that came out of the penalties is that the Jets were unable to convert on a single power-play over the course of the game. Paul Maurice will be scrambling to find a quick solution for this before the problem gets out of hand.
Freddy Andersen Stands Tall
With a full training camp ahead of 2017-18, Frederik Andersen could be the Leafs’ MVP. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
There are few teams in the league that rely on their number one goaltender the way the Leafs rely on Frederik Andersen. The Dane is one of, if not the most, important player on the entire team.
He’s going to see a high volume of starts this year and should be somewhere in the vicinity of between 65 and 70. Andersen put up a 35 save performance and got the win. He had to weather an early storm, as the Jets pelted him with pucks and great chances before the Leafs were able to get on the board.
Andersen has an extra advantage going for him to start his second season with the Maple Leafs. He’s in perfect health and is ready for the rigors of the season. Last year he was coming off of an upper-body injury he sustained while playing for Denmark in an Olympic qualifying game.
If the Maple Leafs want to take the next step in their development, a healthy Andersen is imperative to their continued success.
A Veteran Debut
Many people were extremely excited that the Leafs were able to add Patrick Marleau to the Leafs young core of forwards. The former San Jose Shark is a crafty veteran who signed with the Leafs this summer for three years and $18.75 million dollars.
He’s now the Leafs highest paid player and as such, is expected to live up to the lofty contract. Marleau did a great job of starting on the right foot by scoring a pair of goals against the Jets.
He looked dangerous all night and should serve as a nice compliment to the Leafs young guns. It was a pricey contract for a veteran that is getting long in the tooth, but Marleau can still be an effective contributor. The risk is well worth the potential reward. Assuming he stays healthy, 25 goals and 55 points is a very attainable goal.
He’ll also be a leader in the dressing room and on the ice and has the opportunity to set a good example of what it means to be a true and consummate pro in the NHL today.