The Toronto Maple Leafs opened last season with a dazzling offensive outburst last season, scoring 22 goals in the first four games and posting a 3-1-0 record before settling into more mortal numbers.
One year later, the Leafs are again 3-1-0 after the opening week and lead the NHL with 20 goals following a 7-4 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena on Tuesday, as the scoring contest between Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly continued to escalate.
Matthews and Tavares each scored twice, Marner and Rielly had four points, Ron Hainsey and Connor Brown added singles and Frederik Andersen made 30 saves for Toronto in the win, marking the second straight game the Leafs had registered seven goals against a Central Division foe.
The Toronto power play continued to be a difference maker, scoring a pair of goals on the man advantage in the second period. The Leafs have scored five goals in 10 opportunities (50%), tying them with New Jersey and Washington for the top rated unit in the NHL.
“When we get opportunities like that we have to make them count.” Rielly said after the game. “Some big goals there, timely point in the game, so it’s important we continue to build off that because the power play is not a time to take your foot off the gas. That’s when you have to be ready to go and you have to make plays. We were able to do that tonight and that helped in the win.”
While there continue to be concerns about the club’s loose defensive play and allowing a high amount of shots on Andersen, the club is content early in the season to ride the wave of their offense and play 80’s-style firewagon hockey early in the year because it is to their advantage.
Matthews and Rielly are currently tied for the NHL scoring lead with 10 points. The former Calder Trophy winner has scored a goal and two points in every game and the Leafs have four players in the top 10 (Marner with 8 and Tavares with 6), but the unhealthy byproduct of their wide-open style has resulted in the club allowing a league-high 17 goals against.
“I think we know we’ve got talent and we do the right things, we compete, play hard and develop an identity within our group. I think we believe in creating opportunities and in the skillsets we have and just going from there.” Tavares said. “We’ve done some good things to execute offensively, but no question we’d like to keep a few more out of our net. It’s always nice to get off to that start the way we have, but we know it’s a long season and there’s always ebbs and flows. You’ve just got to stick with it and continue to build and find ways to create chances and contribute.”
The club practiced in Dallas on Wednesday before travelling to Detroit for Thursday night’s contest against the Red Wings at Little Caesar’s Arena. The Wings are 0-1-2 in three games and have most of their experienced defensemen on injured reserve.
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