The Maple Leafs played just two games in the 2017-18 and already fans have witnessed a microcosm of their blueprint for the immediate future.
The roster is stacked with a dynamic group of forwards that can explode at any given moment, as was the case in their home opener Saturday night when they unleashed a barrage of goals in an 8-5 win over the New York Rangers.
By the same token, the team has a propensity to surrender goals at an alarming rate. The season has changed. The Leafs’ inability to preserve leads has not.
It should come as no surprise to any fan who has viewed the Leafs over the past couple of seasons that Toronto’s 5-1 cushion it enjoyed near the end of the first period evaporated within minutes.
By the 14:06 mark of the second frame, the Blueshirts had evened the score.
May as well have set the DeLorean to travel back to last year.
Credit though, goes to the Leafs for not getting deflated, but instead regaining their momentum. Unanswered goals in the third period by Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri sealed the win.
The outburst was led by Zach Hyman who had a two-goal performance. “We had that experience last year, of being up in a game and then letting it get away a little bit,” he said.
“You want to shore up the defensive side of the game when you’re up 5-1. You should have that game locked up, and you should be able to play hard defensively.”
Dominic Moore opened the scoring in his season debut to launch his second tenure in a Leafs uniform. Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner also scored, the latter flashing his speed on a Leafs power play, splitting the defence before firing the puck past Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers’ starting netminder was chased from the game after giving up five first period goals and replaced by Ondrej Pavelec. On the home side, Frederik Andersen mad 30 saves for his second straight win.
“You saw this kind of thing last year at times when we lose our way and we did that,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But we had enough stability and enough talent to stick with it and end up getting a win.”