With the Phoenix Coyotes playing host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get a preview of the team. We rarely see the Leafs in these parts, so we contacted James Mirtle, who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs for The Globe & Mail, to get the scoop on the team. James was kind enough to respond to our questions via e-mail.
What do you attribute the current success the Maple Leafs are having to? Is it just the addition of goalie James Reimer?
That's certainly part of it, as Toronto's goaltending has been a bit underwhelming on the whole this season. Reimer's played well in the minors and was excellent in training camp, but given his age and the fact this is a bit of a surprise, I expect he'll have a hard time keeping this up. It certainly makes (Brian) Burke's decision on what to do in goal more interesting.
One of the big reasons they've gone 5-1-0 in 2011, however, is the fact they're finding the back of the net with regularity, something that really hasn't happened very much this season. Toronto had been one of the lowest scoring teams in the league all season before this recent run.
The Leafs are now ranked 10th in the league on the power play. What do you feel has been the key to the Leafs success on the man advantage?
Two things: Switching to the Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Clarke MacArthur line a bit more than the Phil Kessel one and the play of Tomas Kaberle. Most of Toronto's defencemen have struggled on the power play, but Kaberle has again consistently put up points with the man advantage.
What is the one weakness you believe the Coyotes can exploit to beat the Leafs?
Secondary scoring is a problem, although Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong have been helping in that department. But I have to think that if you can shutdown Grabovski and his line, you stand a fairly good chance of holding the Leafs to two goals or less. Toronto's blueline and bottom four or five forwards almost never score a goal.
If you were a Coyotes fan, what Leafs player would you want to keep your eye on?
Kessel's an obvious pick, but Grabovski's been the team MVP and remains underrated around the league. Kulemin doesn't have much of a profile but is on pace for 30 goals in only his third season and could be a real factor in the future. And Luke Schenn on defence is good to watch if you're a fan of solid defence and big hits.
For more on the Leafs check out Mirtle's Grading the Leafs: Mid-season report Cards blog post.