Leafs benefiting from balanced attack

 

It’s great to share the wealth. Or, in the Leafs’ case, it’s practically a necessity.

In sweeping this past weekend’s games versus the Rangers and the Senators, Toronto had ten goals, from nine different scorers. Peter Holland, who has spent the bulk of his time in blue and white on the fourth line, was the only Leaf to find the net in back-to-back games.

The balanced attack will only serve to alleviate the pressure off the team’s top forwards. Take, for example Phil Kessel, whose weak shot at an open net in Sunday’s tilt in Ottawa was his best scoring opportunity. Thwarted at the attempt, the Leafs premier sniper was held pointless.

He is now mired in a one-game goal drought.

Not much of a problem for the ‘visitors’ to the Canadian Tire Centre (to use the term loosely, based on which dressing rooms the teams occupy, since you couldn’t tell solely by the allegiance in the stands). Enter the likes of Josh Leivo, Mike Santorelli and the rejuvenated David Clarkson.

The Leafs have scored 47 goals in 15 games so far this season, just one fewer than they had at this point in the 2013-14 schedule. But a close examination of the goal distribution from last year shows just how dependent the team was on their top six forwards.

(Leafs scoring, after 15 games in 2013-14):

leafs2013-14_nov8Toronto’s top snipers: Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, Mason Raymond and Dave Bolland combined for 39 of the team’s 48 goals, a whopping 81.2%

This year, the scoring is more spread out. The top six goal-getters are: Kessel (8), van Riemsdyk (6), Tyler Bozak (5), Kadri (4), Clarkson (4) and Holland (3), who have collectively found the net 30 times, accounting for 63.9% of Toronto’s goals.

Yes, the team can breathe a little bit easier if one its forwards gets injured (read: Lupul).

Just as notably, the balance is much more pronounced when adding up the production from the blueline. Coming out of the Leafs’ 15th game last year, they had just three goals from the defence; a pair from Dion Phaneuf and one from Paul Ranger. And, we know they all count, but did we mention that Ranger’s goal was an empty-netter?

This year’s edition of the back end – turnovers and all – has gotten off to a much more successful start. Cody Franson has a pair of goals, as does Roman Polak, while singles have gone to Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly.

As with any team, Toronto is expected to have the bulk of its offence generated from its top two lines.

But if the bottom six forwards, plus the defence, can contribute consistently – as they showed in the past two games – the Leafs opponents will be forced to prepare a game plan that involves more than just shutting down Kessel.

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo