1. No Reimer, No Problem: The collective gasp in the Air Canada Centre when James Reimer went down a few weeks was audible even on the TV broadcast, but Leafs fans need not fret about their number one goalie being temporarily unavailable. Ben Scrivens entered the game in replace of Reimer and held on for the win, and has performed more than capably in his absence.
Since Reimer’s injury, Scrivens has started every game, posting three wins in five games, including two shutouts. The solid play of Scrivens has thrown yet another wrench into Toronto’s goaltending situation, as it’s often hard to pull a hot goalie. Will Reimer become the number one again when he returns from injury? Or will Scrivens continue to get the nod until he proves he needs to be replaced? Only time will tell what Randy Carlyle decides, but he has to be happy with the way both of his goaltenders have played thus far.
2. Constant Kadri: After starting the season with points in four consecutive games, Nazem Kadri has fallen back to earth. However, his production since has been incredibly consistent. He is not scoring as many goals as he did in the first week of the reason, but he has only once gone two consecutive games without a point, and his ice-time has been improving steadily as the season has gone on.
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Toronto’s third line has been one of the keys to the team’s success this season, and Kadri is tied for the Leafs points lead. Ron Wilson was always chastised for his refusal to allow Kadri a legitimate shot at regular NHL ice-time, and now that Kadri is seeing big-time minutes, he’s rewarding Carlyle with big-time production.
3. Healthy Scratches: In the past the Toronto Maple Leafs have been chastised by the fan base and pundits for choosing lineups based on player salaries and profiles, rather than who is actually playing well. Randy Carlyle has proven he will not coach this way, which has resulted in players like John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek sitting in the luxury box while lower profile players like Mike Kostka and Mark Fraser log big minutes. Carlyle has shown that he’ll play the guys who are giving the most effort, and it shows, as the Leafs are one of the top eight teams in the East almost halfway through the season.
4. Road Performances: The Leafs are 7-4-0 on the road this season, which is the fifth best road record in the NHL. Toronto hasn’t been nearly as good at home, posting a .500 record at the ACC, but their ability to win on the road could prove to be an asset should the Leafs make the playoffs. Don Cherry recently suggested that the Leafs’ home struggles are due to the crowd at the ACC not being loud enough, which is probably a stretch. Whatever the reasoning, Toronto has been able to find more success on the road this year, and Carlyle will seek to remedy their home woes.
5. Struggling Grabovski: Mikhail Grabovski has been a mainstay of the Toronto Maple Leafs offence for several years now, usually finishing in the top four or five in team scoring, and averaging about 50 points a season. Through 19 games in 2013, Grabo has only eight points and a minus-three rating. Grabovski has been outperformed by young studs like Matt Frattin, Kadri, and James van Riemsdyk. In fact, the second line of Grabovski, Komarov and Kulemin has been pretty average thus far. Grabo might start hearing footsteps if he and his linemates don’t start to perform soon, as the third line is playing far above Grabovski’s level right now.