BY KYLE MYERS – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Here are five storylines surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs after the second full week of the NHL season. Is James Reimer finally the number one goalie the Leafs were looking for?
1. Optimus Reim: Has James Reimer finally seized the starting goaltender’s role in Toronto? That remains to be seen. But if Optimus Reim continues to play the way he has in his past five starts, he will be the bona fide starter before the season is done. In that span Reimer has saved 154 out of 168 shots for a .916 save percentage, including a 33 save gem against Boston in which he got no help from the offence, and the Leafs lost 1-0. After Ben Scrivens received the first two starts of the season, Reimer has clearly been the better goaltender. If his solid play continues, he has the opportunity to put to rest the questions surrounding his ability to be a number one goaltender in the NHL.
2. Young Stars: Nazem Kadri still hasn’t cooled down from his hot start to the season, and is producing at almost a point-per-game pace. Matt Frattin has made an immediate impact since being recalled from the Marlies, scoring five goals in his first six games. James van Reimsdyk and Tyler Bozak are both among the top five scorers on the team. The Leafs have been rather inconsistent thus far this season, but when they succeed, it is largely due to the solid play of their young forwards.
3. Yo-Yo Gardiner?: Jake Gardiner is a highly touted defensive prospect who has spent much of his career in the AHL. Though struggling with a concussion this season, he was called up to the Leafs last week, where he played two games, putting up no points and a minus-one rating. He was subsequently sent down, but was called up during the AHL all-star break. Gardiner didn’t appear in any games, and as of last Thursday, he was headed back to the Marlies. Randy Carlyle has stated that he will be rotating unproven defencemen to keep everyone fresh, but it is unclear what effect this yo-yoing between the AHL and NHL will have on Gardiner’s confidence.
4. Mediocre D: The Toronto Maple Leafs have only two goals by defencemen through eight games this season. Top defensive pairing Dion Phaneuf and Mike Kostka are both a team-low minus-six, and Toronto defencemen have only scored 11 of the team’s 61 points. Toronto’s defencemen need to step up both their offensive and defensive contributions to the team in order for the Leafs to succeed.
5. Fights, Fights, Fights: NHL fans have undoubtedly noticed the increase in fights thus far in the 2013 season, and the Maple Leafs are certainly no exception. Three players on the Leafs (Colton Orr, Mike Brown, and Mark Fraser) have three fighting majors each, and the Leafs have a team total of ten fights through only nine games. The Leafs are at this point one of the league leaders in fighting majors, and it will be interesting to see how long they can keep up the pace of over a fight per game.
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