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Midseason Musings

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Now in his sixth season with Leafs TV
 you can watch Brian Duff hosting pre- and post-game shows for all the breaking news surrounding the Blue and White.

January 8, 2007

(TORONTO) -- Given the endless harangue over the schedule, it was only fitting that the Maple Leafs completed the seasons' first half versus Boston, and began the second half against said B's.

And while the Leafs are no longer unbeaten in 2007, there are a number of numbers worthy of a second look, and particular personnel moves on the horizon that will occupy many media airwaves and provide fodder for the daily water cooler sessions.

Mats should pass Darryl Sittler and become the Leafs all-time points leader later this season.
(Getty Images/NHLI)

Firstly, in my opinion it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Maple Leafs are where they are - both from a record standpoint, and a standings standpoint.  They appeared from the onset to be much like a lot of teams in the East and to date they are exactly that.

But beyond those most important facts are some others of interest.

Somehow, some way, despite nearly twice as many man-games lost to injury as a year ago, and not adding firepower up front in the off-season, they are second in the Eastern Conference in goals for, on pace for 270, which would be a slight improvement over 05-06.

However, a large part of their offence to date has come in four lopsided victories. And as Leafs Nation is fully aware, the team has followed up each of those impressive wins with a loss. Maybe there is some truth to the saying that less is more - as in leaving a few goals in the tank for next time. (By the way, the Predators are the only team that has won more lopsided games than the Leafs, and they've followed up their wins by five goals or more with a 4-1 record.)

Toronto's power play has been near the top most of the year, and is aided by the club's unmatched proficiency while playing 5 on 3. So far they've scored a league-best 12 goals during two-man advantages.

They've also been very good when playing two-men down, surrendering just three goals in such situations, fourth best in the league. However the penalty kills' overall efficiency is close to a year ago when it ultimately ended up 24th. The long term injury to Michael Peca obviously hurts the cause.

Boyd Devereaux's point streak is over at four games but Kris Newbury's is alive at three after Saturday night. John Pohl has 11 points in his last 10 games, and Bates Battaglia will likely post his highest points total in an NHL season since 2001-02, the year the Hurricanes went to the Finals.

What does it all mean? It's hard to know, other than the Marlies being able to provide more than adequate replacements in a time of need for the parent club.

What happens when Tucker, Wellwood, Ponikarovsky, Antropov, and Peca are able to return?

Steen, Sundin, and O'Neill seem probable to be kept together.

Perhaps Ponikarovsky with Wellwood and Tucker would work as a second offensive line.

Kilger, Stajan (until Peca returns) and Antropov would seem logical.

And IF they can maintain their recent play, one would think Paul Maurice wouldn't have any problem keeping Battaglia with Pohl and Devereaux.

That would leave Newbury, Ondrus, Suglobov, and Belak as the odd men out, but as recent history has taught us, this team - like most others - is rarely 100% healthy, especially as the season winds down.

As for things to watch for the rest of the way, let's start with Tucker. Will this be the year he reaches 30 goals for the first time? Injuries played a role in him coming up two shy last year, and just how long will he be plagued by his current ailments?

By averaging slightly more than a point-a-game over the final 39, Mats Sundin will catch Darryl Sittler and become the franchise's all-time leader in points. Thankfully the trade deadline will have come and gone by then, which should silence some of the nightly critics on Leaf Talk with Andy Frost during After The Horn.

Andrew Raycroft is on pace to win 30 games for the first time in his career. Will that be enough to get the Leafs into the playoffs?

As for the remaining schedule there is still five meetings with Buffalo, four with Montreal, three with Sidney Crosby (and also the Senators), two each with the Rangers and Devils, and oh yes, one more with the Bruins.

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