One of the biggest differences between this year's edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs and those of years past, is the attitude surrounding the team.
From Brian Burke to Ron Wilson to the team on the ice, the fans and even the media, everyone believes this team is a winning team.
After what could have been a devastating loss to the team in years past, virtually any comment or article written the following day—though the bad calls were pointed out—were positive, commenting on the team's resilience and posture rather than nit picking and complaining as was the case so often in recent years.
It is genuinely a good feeling.
Some big statistical differences include.
• In four games this season, J.S. Giguere has a 1.96 GAA, which is the eighth best in the NHL.
• With five goals, Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur are tied for third in the NHL in goal scoring.
• Tyler Bozak leads the Leafs with a 55.6 winning percentage on faceoffs.
• Dion Phaneuf (19), Luke Schenn (18) and Fredrik Sjostrom (16) are all ranked in the Top 20 in the NHL in hits.
The Toronto Maple Leafs so far in this young season also have something that a lot of other teams don't have, balanced scoring.
While it isn't fair to say that they are the only team with this luxury, it is also something that is somewhat new to the team.
The top line of Kessel, Bozak and and Versteeg have been dominant for the most part on the ice with their collective speed and creativity though the second line of Kullemin, Grabovski and MacArthur have out scored the Kessel line with a combination of speed, creativity and pure determination.
That certainly isn't to say that the Kessel line lacks determination, but highly skilled players usually play more with their hands then with their heart.
Of course, the success of the second unit may be as attributable to the language barrier as anything else.
With one player from Russia, another from Belarus and a third from Alberta sometimes language can become an issue but it can also be a blessing in disguise as the three will work harder to understand one another based on it.
Said Clarke MacArthur after the media scrum yesterday,“Honestly, their English is really well,” before recovering.
“I mean really good. I’m the one who needs the English lessons.”
Grabovski’s English is passable, Kulemin struggles. Grabovski and Kulemin are from similar systems but MacArthur is from Lloydminster. So how is it that the line talks more than most others MacArthur has encountered in stops Buffalo and Atlanta?
“I think maybe in past life I played with them,” said Grabovski. “We understand each other.”
Of little surprise should be the improved play of young defense man Luke Schenn who turns 21 on November second and is not only third in most games played in a Leafs uniform on the current roster but is already a third year veteran of sorts.
“You have young guys coming into the league who are 21, 22,” said Schenn. “I guess I’m looked upon as a bit of an older guy because I have been here for three years.”
Even Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. has taken notice.
“Even from this year I notice he is a lot more confident with the puck,” says Phanuef
“He’s holding the puck; he’s moving the puck well. He is seeing the ice well. Right from when I got here he was playing really well down the stretch. He carried that over into this year and more.”
Phanuef is also another player who so far has had a good year and so far a good start as captain of the blue n' white.
Among the league leaders in average ice time, shifts per game and penalty minutes, Phaneuf is working towards proving the doubters of not only his ability as a player but as a team captain wrong one game at a time.