March was quite the month for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A 9-4-1 record saw the Buds grab 19 of a possible 30 points, moving securely into the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs finish their season over the next eight days, including a trip to Ottawa tonight on HNIC (remember when the Sens were good? me neither).
Toronto's second half run will create a lot of hope (and expectations) for next year. Is this reasonable or are Leaf fans setting themselves up for disappointment? James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail takes a look at what's driving the turnaround:
1. Goaltending: Wilson seems to have tired of the suggestion that his rookie netminder is the sole reason for his team’s success, but James Reimer has been a big factor in his team’s goals against dropping with a very young blueline in front of him.
2. Offence from the defence: Captain Dion Phaneuf has led the way in this department, but Luke Schenn and Gunnarsson have upped their production, too. Combined, the three have 11 goals and 29 assists in the last 29 games after scoring only 29 points in the Leafs’ first 49 games.
3. Offence from the checking lines: Toronto’s bottom-six forwards are producing roughly half a point more a game than they did before the all-star break, one benefit of having less of Colton Orr and more of Nazem Kadri.
4. Puck luck: Ten per cent of the Leafs’ shots on goal since the all-star break have found the back of the net, which matches the shooting percentage the league-leading Vancouver Canucks have posted this season.
Nothing too surprising there. The Leafs are a young team that seems to be moving in the right direction. I'm not Ron Wilson's biggest fan, but he seems to finally have found a way to motivate the Leafs on a nightly basis. There are a lot of positives here for next fall.
Links after the jump...
Bloge Salming and DGB are the Road Warriors of the Barilkosphere. Simply amazing.
Five for Fighting are curious if this run of good play will carry over to next fall
Puckin' Eh has a few quick hits, including an important milestone for the Leafs' rebuild
Toronto Maple Leafs Legends with a weekend update
VLM examines the Leafs young defense and how it compares to the Leafs' D of the 1960s
Kyle Larkin examines the Leafs recent history of late season runs