Toronto Maple Leafs: Three Stars of the Week
There are three things at Tip of the Tower that we accomplish daily. We eat, we sleep (sometimes), and we equip you with everything you need to know about your Toronto Maple Leafs. This weekly series will review the Leafs’ top performers and how they contributed over the past few games.
Week 1: October 8th, 2014 – October 15th, 2014
Third Star of the Week: Stuart Percy
Stuart Percy made his NHL debut for the Maple Leafs in last Wednesday’s season opener against the Montreal Canadiens. It did not take him long to settle in and hear his name announced by Andy Frost. Percy notched an assist on Tyler Bozak‘s power play goal late in his first period played in the National Hockey League. The Oakville, Ontario native totaled three assists in four games in his first week as a Maple Leaf.
Percy originally made the Leafs starting line-up when Cody Franson was unable to play after hurting his knee in a preseason game. Franson was cleared to play and had hinted that he was ready to go for the Leafs match-up against the Penguins, but he was left out as a healthy scratch, in favour of Stuart Percy. Percy performed well against Sidney Crosby and his Penguins, as he continued to prove that he is in fact ready to be an everyday NHL defenseman.
Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Stuart Percy (50) carries the puck past Montreal Canadiens forwardAlex Galchenyuk
(27) at the Air Canada Centre. Montreal defeated Toronto 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
It was not his offensive touch that kept him in the lineup through the rest of the week, but his play-making ability and defensive awareness. He was one of just seven Leaf players to finish the week with a positive plus/minus rating (+1).
Percy has looked comfortable playing beside veteran Roman Polak. They are a balanced defensive pairing who can both move the puck up ice with purpose and have both looked strong in their debuts with the Maple Leafs. The twenty-one year old will have to continue to produce points and play with a defense-first mentality to keep his spot both on the Leafs blue line and in our Three Stars of the Week.
Second Star of the Week: James Reimer
Last season James Reimer was awarded the start in-goal for the Maple Leafs in the season opener against the Canadiens, which the Leafs won 4-3. This year it was Jonathan Bernier who got the call against Montreal and the result was a 4-3 loss. Having some of the pressure taken off by sitting the first two games may have been to the benefit of Reimer. He has been the starter for both Leafs wins to begin the season, both coming in the ladder half of opening week.
Reimer helped backstop the Buds to a massive bounce back win in a tough match-up against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. He stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced against the Rangers, before leaving the game in the third period as a precaution after he was hit in the head. As always, Reimer battled all game against a talented Rangers offense who was in his face all night. He fought through traffic and won battles in the crease to cover any loose pucks that were dangerously sitting around before the Rangers could capitalize.
Oct 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wingLee Stempniak
(12) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Most importantly, Reimer made timely saves for the Leafs and it gave them a chance to get ahead, which they did in the second period. He was given his second straight start against the visiting Colorado Avalanche and once again he was up to the task. The Leafs carried most of the play in this one but again, the Reiminister of Defense was able to shut down the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, and make key saves when the Leafs were trailing 2-1.
Reimer posted a respectable 2.24 goals against average and .920 save percentage to begin his campaign. His most impressive statistic however is his 2-0-0 record in-goal and it may earn him his third straight start against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
First Star of the Week: Phil Kessel
How could it not be? Phil Kessel was wearing his invisibility cloak in the first two games of the season and without his offensive presence, the Leafs sunk. Kessel earned his spot as the first star of week one with his clutch performances against the Rangers and Avalanche. He stepped up with his team entering its third game of the year winless, scoring a total of five points in two Maple Leaf victories.
Sep 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) looks at his stick after missing a chance to score on a breakaway against the Ottawa Senators in the during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Ottawa defeated Toronto 4-3 in an overtime shoot-out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Kessel put up one goal and two assists in the victory against the Rangers. His goal displayed his excellent finishing abilities as he banged one in past Henrik Lundqvist and it came on a power-play early in the second period, breaking a 1-1 deadlock. The Leafs never looked back after Kessel gave them the momentum, scoring two more shortly after to give them a 4-1 lead.
Kessel carried that momentum right into the next game at the Air Canada Centre. He set up his favourite American line-mate James van Riemsdyk to give the Leafs an early lead against Colorado. His heroics in overtime were enough on their own to win him the first star of the week. An exceptional individual effort and an exemplary combination of speed and puck protection gave the Leafs their second straight win after he slid a smooth forehand through the pads of Semyon Varlamov.
The only thing that seems wrong in this video, is Phil Kessel is missing his superman cape. Here’s another look at our first star of the week.
Fansiders, do you agree or Disagree? Who are your three stars of the week? Let us know in the comments section below.
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