He doesn’t score many goals. But when he does, they are usually game-winners.
There’s a reason why anyone who is a fan of the Leafs or has an association with them loves Leo Komarov. When his name was announced for his first goal of the season, the crowd showed its respect with the loudest ovation for any announced goal. Yes, it was the eventual game-winner. But it meant more than that. It was the combination of infatuation and respect that this city has for number 47.
Komarov is producing at a level management expected of him thus far. Inking a four-year contract during the summer, Komarov was expected to have larger role than the one he took on in his rookie campaign. He’s delivered on that expectation. His nine points through 14 games already matches his production for all of 2012-13.
His ability to score has mostly been on display overseas, but the ability has never escaped him. And while it came as a sense of massive relief for Komarov to score a goal on Saturday, it was his ability to put his team over on the scoresheet, that most satisfied this interesting man.
“I think the win feels better,” said Komarov following the Leafs 5-4 win over the New York Rangers. “It’s always nice to score too. But I know I don’t score that much, it feels great to see the puck go in, but to get the win feels much better.”
Komarov now has five NHL goals in his brief career, four of them have been game-winners.
“He’s just one of those guys who’s good for a laugh in the room, then he goes out there and backs it up with his play so we love having him,” said Peter Holland, who was the benefactor of a shorthanded goal set up completely by Komarov.
Much like the fans, the team showed their appreciation for him at the end of the game, including Nazem Kadri.
“We’ve been talking all week, just telling him to shoot low for once,” said Kadri, who had offered advice how to get Komarov to snap out of his goal scoring funk. “Every single time he just keeps going for the upper half of the net. It’s just a habit, I mean I do it myself. One time we told him to just shoot low blocker, he puts it into the net and gets the game winner.”
He’s always been dubbed as a good guy to have in the room, and his background certainly makes him a unique commodity in the NHL.
“He has a little bit of a different sense of humour being that he speaks five different languages and he mumbles in all of them” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. “He’s just a funny guy and a good guy to be around and he plays hard for his teammates.”
His work ethic has been infectious, and it’s one that Carlyle hopes will continue to rub off on other players in the room.
“His on-ice play is one of a player that refuses to stop working. It’s a display every day. He enjoys coming to the rink and playing and he only knows one way. And he gives 100 per cent in practice and the games and any of the events that you participate in he seems to be the guy that always has a smile on his face.”
Jake Gardiner continues to find himself in situations where a bad bounce has vilified him at times. Had the Leafs not fought their way back, Gardiner understands that he may have been more of a focal point.
“I tried to kick it up to myself and obviously it went to their guy and it seems like I’ve been getting some bad bounces lately but that’s just how it goes,” said Gardiner on the Rangers fourth goal. “Thank goodness Leo scored that goal. I would have been pretty upset after that one.”
Uncharted Territory on Special Teams
The Maple Leafs have played their special teams to perfection over the little while. In their past three games, the Leafs have managed score at least one power-play goal, while going perfect on the penalty kill in all of those matches. It’s a level Carlyle has yet to see in his tenure as head coach. The last time Leafs accomplished that feat in three consecutive games, was February 28th – March 2 of 2012. The first of those games was Ron Wilson’s last as head coach, while the latter two were Carlyle’s first two games.