Whatever it was, whatever the reason, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs just want more of it. The 8-1 destruction of the Carolina Hurricanes came about in quick fashion and in the high flying, uptempo style we fell in love with early in the season. They scored four goals in the first period, they scored two goals in six seconds and they did it all without Auston Matthews who sat out another game with an undisclosed (cough, concussion, cough) upper body injury.
After scoring only four goals in the last four games, this offensive outburst was sorely needed and many, myself included, was wondering where it came from and how we can bottle it. So we start with the time of the game. This was the first time in a very long time that they played an afternoon game that didn’t fall on a holiday. Well, yes it was done to commemorate 100 years of the NHL and of the team and yes, the city “officially” called it Toronto Maple Leafs Day, but still technically, those aren’t holidays. It did mean however that more kids were at the game even though they needed to play hookey to go watch hockey. So maybe having more youth at the game generated a different kind of electricity that the players fed off of? Interesting theory but it does have one fact in its favour. The performance and friendly ribbing of Mitch Marner.
Apparently the number one star of the game was getting roasted by players and coaches as he was told that he played so well because his “classmates” were in attendance. They also suggested that playing a game “before his bedtime” led the youngster to score his first goal in 38 days. That early first period power play goal seemed to unshackle the speedster who finished with three more assists for his first ever, four point game. William Nylander had also been in a slump of late and it was good to see another youngster get on the board again. Both players seem to have more confidence and that is only good news. Well, maybe not so good news when you think about future contracts and the money they’ll ask for, but for now, they need to play like they played today. Therefore MLSE head honchos, it might be a wise idea to find more reasons to have more kids at games.
If you don’t believe in the early start time or the youth movement that caused the scoring explosion, then maybe it was wearing their old, old, old uniforms, when they were once called the Toronto Arenas. The design was quite simple and the trusted blue and white remained. For the most part I think I like them, but everytime I look at the logo, the first thing that pops into my head is what in tarnation are areTnas? Then I become self conscious and don’t like them as much. But, if they were to wear these jerseys another time and if that causes another game like this one, well I will be the first person to not only buy a jersey but start a petition to have these be the official jerseys once again. As Crash Davis from Bull Durham said, “You have to respect the streak.” Sure it’s not the same sport, but the same principle applies. You never mess with a good thing.
So there are plenty of fun reasons as to why, the Leafs may have found their offensive touch but I am sure coach Babcock will get into the real reasons with the team over the next few days. The work ethic, for the most part, has been there throughout their three game losing streak and Babcock was quick to point them out after those losses. But that, in and of itself is the crux of the situation. The only way to get out of a scoring slump is to continue to work hard and to keep shooting. There is plenty of talent on this team and when they are able to balance all that creativity on offence with defensive responsibility, a deep playoff run is not out of the question. But until then… a few more games like this will do just fine.
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