Tricks and Treats

October 31, 2013 6:08 am

Following another win by the Toronto Maple Leafs last night they now find themselves atop both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. The travelling circus that is the blue and white continues to roll on as they now sit 10-4-0 early in the 2013-14 season. It has definitely been an odd October as the Leafs were continuously outplayed and outshot yet successful. While the “strong” October is now a thing of the past, looking into November the Leafs will seek to not only solidify their defensive zone coverage but continue to collect wins against some weak teams.

Things are shaping up quite nicely for Randy Carlyle’s team in the second month of the season as they are set to play inferior opponents like the Buffalo Sabres (three times actually), New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators. In addition to those teams (and a few others) the Leafs will also face the divisional rival Boston Bruins for the first time since last spring’s playoff series as well as the Montreal Canadiens.

November kicks off with the conclusion of the Western Canadian tour as the Vancouver Canucks are the only thing that stands in the Leafs way of a perfect trip. It’s been a long time since Toronto has been able to stroll into Western Canada and emerge perfect. It had become a yearly ritual during the Pat Quinn years, but lately it has been nothing but a disaster. The last time they came out West it was the beginning of the 2011-12 collapse that saw Ron Wilson get dismissed and the team drop from 5th in the Eastern Conference to drafting 5th overall. That trip is an awful memory. While the current version of the Leafs will not get any style points, a perfect trip goes a long way in establishing some sort of fellowship among the guys in the room as well as valuable points in the bank.

Another interesting element to look for in November is the (hopeful) return to health of the Leafs. Nazem Kadri has demonstrated what everyone knew: Tyler Bozak was miscast on the top line and Kadri deserved to be in that role all along. When both Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin return, the Leafs forward ranks should be able to stand up against most teams in the league. Should both of those injured players return without anyone else joining them on the sidelines, I would hope that Carlyle proceeds with the following lineup:

JVR – Kadri – Kessel
Lupul – Bozak – Clarkson
Raymond – Bolland – Kulemin
Ashton – McClement – Bodie

Of course the Leafs offense hasn’t been an issue this year, the problems lie with the blueline. Kulemin’s all around play will help that out somewhat, but ultimately that group as a whole needs to be better. October is now a thing of the past. The Leafs October is similar to a lot of university students Halloween weekend: full of mistakes, a little lucky and ultimately a good memory. Let’s see what November brings.

This article was written by on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:08 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • Peter hill

    Nice article, however I wonder how kadri holds up getting the big minutes. The top line seemed to be hemmed in all night albeit on a back to back night against that hardworking flames squad.

    • hope_smoke

      Bozak holds up well playing big minutes?

      • Peter Hill

        independent of bozak, you can tell kadri is not ready for 20,21 22 minutes a night. I would love him to prove me wrong, and I am sure there will be a long look since bozak is prob 2 weeks away. In a perfect world he would slowly ease into a 1C role.

        • hope_smoke

          There is no Bozak aside though. It’s either/or. Kadri is better in all areas of the ice and I disagree that he can’t play heavy minutes. Even if you believe that to be true, Bozak has proven (over multiple seasons) that he cannot either. Thanks for the comment.

  • Dee Fence

    I agree with those lines, and wish that’s the way they’d be. Even though it hurts Lupul. 3rd line has a chance to produce more than the 2nd though… of course it’s all hypothetical because of RC.

  • Tyler Kadri

    Looking at those lines I am surprised to find that my gut wants to keep Bozak on the top line… Two things about it for me: one is that Kessel/JVR are going to terrorize with either of those two centers – maybe a bit more with Kadri but it has been working with Bozo for a while now as well; two is that I don’t trust a Lupul-Bozak-Clarkson line, it doesn’t inspire the confidence in me that a Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson line would. Kadri and Lupul always seem to play excellent together, then adding in Clarkson hammering out space for them will mean TWO top lines. Two near first line level lines instead of having no true first line for so many years…

    Randy will try out all the combinations I’m sure so mostly I’m just looking forward to all the big boys being back in action and seeing what sticks when he shakes the branches.

  • esoterik

    Carlyle pairs two players always together
    so this is what I believe the lines we will be seeing

    JVR – Bozak – Kessel
    Lupul –Kadri – Kulemin
    Raymond – Bolland – Clarkson
    Ashton – McClement – Orr

  • Steel_Wind

    I remember game 7 against Boston with Kadri on the first line. I remember poor defensive play and TERRIBLE face-off percentages. If Bozak had not been injured in Game 7, there is a strong chance the Leafs would not have lost that game. I know we have all been trying very hard to scrub the memory from our lives – but let’s not pretend ENTIRELY that it never happened at all.

    So that’s PAUSE #1.

    Bozak has had a poor start to this season and his timing has clearly been off. That said, Bozak has always fit in well with Kessel and JVR and Kadri+Lupal is also a strong lineup, perhaps more so alongside Clarkson. Kadri + Lupal is not a pair I would be quick to break up when there are other options,

    So that’s PAUSE #2.

    Bozak’s face-off percentage is down this year, probably an indication something is not quite right with him. Kadri’s percentages are TERRIBLE and have only recently been boosted after being matched up head-2-head against Malkin last Saturday. Malkin’s face-off % are near the worst in the league, so it makes Kadri’s look almost indifferent instead of as horrible as it really is. The Leafs puck possession is so poor because of poor face-off performance. And some of you guys want to make Kadri the go-to face-off guy on the Leafs?

    And that’s PAUSE #3.