I've noted this before, that inside the Leafs' dressing room are just 4 players who have been with the team since 2005 - Kaberle, Ponikarovsky, Stajan, and White. Another thing these 4 players have in common is that none of them has played for any other NHL team but the Toronto Maple Leafs. This dressing room is the only NHL dressing room they've ever known and the Leafs' jersey is the only NHL jersey they've ever worn. This season, all 4 players have emerged, in their own way, to become significant contributors and leaders.
Matt Stajan: Is on a 3-game point streak, and has been on the scoresheet 4 out of the last 5 games, 7 out of the last 9 games, and 11 out of last 14, scoring 6 goals, 8 assists for 14 points. That's a point-per-game pace for 14 games for Matt Stajan. For the season, he's currently on pace for 25 goals and 35 assists. Tied for second on the team in scoring with Hagman.
Alexei Ponikarovsky: I think maybe Poni reads my blog. On November 25th I mentioned that Poni wasn't "lighting up the score sheet at the same remarkable pace as he closed out last season". The next game he had 4 points. Poni didn't register a point last night against the Islanders, but he still has 9 points in his last 7 games. He leads all Leafs forwards in plus/minus at +7.
Ian White: Even more impressive then Poni's plus/minus is the astounding magnificence that is Ian White and his +11 rating. Astonishing. Scored a beauty last night against the Islanders with a well-placed shot off a nice set-up from Stajan.
Tomas Kaberle: Continues at nearly a point-per-game pace with 29 points after 30 games. Set up Beauchemin's goal in the first period against the Islanders. More importantly, the Leafs' puck possession has looked smooth and confident, at times even dominant. But wait there's more... Two players who struggled out of the gate this season are both showing postive signs and may have turned the corner.
Vesa Tokala: Statistically, he's still the worst goalie in the NHL, but after a dreadful October and posting a horrendous 5.13 GAA for the month, the Vesa bounced back in November with a 2.68 GAA.. In 4 of his last 6 starts, his SV% has been .912 or above, averaging out to .911 over those 6 starts, while Toskala has blanked opponents in 9 of his last 17 periods of play. I'm hesitant to suggest that Toskala's troubles are over because there's still a long way to go for him to save his season, but I also saw him catch a puck with his glove-hand last night, so who knows what the Vesa2010 is capable of next.
Luke Schenn: I really wanted to bring this to people's attention: Luke Schenn is now on the plus side of the ledger. He had been a +1 for 4 consecutive games, including the 7-2 loss to the Bruins, and was a +2 last night against the Islanders. His plus/minus for the season now stands at +1. In the last 7 games, OLAS is +7 overall. And then he drops a bone-crushing bomb to top it all off.
"Just keep believing, I think we're eventually going to get there."
There's still a long way to go, but the Leafs finally seem to be on the right track. They're playing an exciting style to watch and they look capable of winning more games then they lose. Will it be enough to get into the playoffs? Only 5 points back of Montreal for the final spot with a game in hand, believe it or not, they're making a run for it and there's still two weeks before Christmas.
Go Leafs Go