Yes, the Leafs have proved, in the last 18 games since the Olympic break, that they can succeed without the point production of Tomas Kaberle. An impressive 10-5-3 record has been put together, with Kaberle only contributing a meagre and well-documented 3 points to the offence.
So, is the scoring more dynamic then? Are the Leafs finding different ways to win every night, with different guys stepping up and chipping in? Are the Leafs less dependant upon one player's performance to succeed? Are we winning as a team?
Not so sure. One thing I've noticed that suggests otherwise is that when Kessel is on, so are the Leafs. In fact, since the break, the Leafs fortunes seem to be entirely tied to Kessel's output.
Over the last 18 games, when Kessel scores a goal or gets an assist, the Leafs are 9-0-1, yet when Kessel is held off the scoresheet, the record is 1-5-2.
That seems kinda significant to me. Seems like we need Phil Kessel to score or we're fucked.
Now there's concern that Kessel may have an injury. With just 3 games left and nothing on the line, will the Leafs push their leading scorer into the line-up if he's less then a hundred percent? With Kessel out of the line-up, could Kaberle score 7 points in 3 games? Wouldn't that be dramatic...
MONSTER for MASTERTON
Last year I successfully predicted that Ian White would earn the Masterton nominee from the Leafs, and while he didn't win the award that Jason Blake made famous, I was proud that he got the nod from the team after his breakout season.
This year I'm nominating rookie goaltender Jonas Gusatvsson and I wouldn't be surprised if the Leafs did too. If not, I'm very curious as to who they might select. It might be unusual for a rookie to be nominated for the Masterton, but I think Jonas has been a excellent and deserving example of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication. The Monster faced a lot of adversity this year but battled through it to post some amazing numbers down the stretch.