When analysts looked at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster heading into training camp this season, one question became quite popular; with Mats Sundin out of the picture, where is the scoring going to come from? I’ll admit it, I was a definite skeptic, and laughed at the thought of names like Mikhail Grabovski or Matt Stajan getting top line minutes against teams with elite offensive talent like the Pittsburgh Penguins. Who would have thought that the blue and white might actually boast some offensive firepower? Sure, defensively they’ve been mediocre and their goaltending has been nothing short of atrocious, but their offense, which ranks 11th in the league (only 6 fewer goals than the Penguins), has been a pleasant surprise, particularly of late.
Head coach Ron Wilson tried out a new top line a couple weeks back, and hasn’t looked back. The line features Jason Blake and Nik Antropov on the wings, with Dominic Moore at centre. Yes, the same Dominic Moore that analysts everywhere had initially projected as a career checking-line centre. While Antropov has continued his usual, steady point contributions, Blake and Moore have seen extreme number surges, with Blake contributing 7G and 7A in his last 8 games, and Moore compiling an astounding 9 points over his last 5. GM Brian Burke may have more trade bait a month from now than he initially thought he would, when the Leafs are expected to be among the busiest teams at the trade deadline.
The Buds have 5 forwards with more than 30 points, a claim that only 6 other NHL teams can make. When you consider that all 6 of those teams are sitting comfortably in playoff spots, it makes the Leafs’ offensive production look that much more impressive (but also their 11th place in the Eastern Conference that much more embarrassing). Blake, Moore, Antropov, and Alexei Ponikarovsky are all legitimate players in deeper leagues, with Blake and Moore being particularly valuable during their current streaks. Like some high school lunch lady somewhere used to say, “Get ‘em while they’re hot!”