Toronto Maple Leafs: The Supporting Cast is Putting on a Show

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Travis Dermott
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Travis Dermott /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost crucial pieces to their team due to injury this season. How have they managed to remain so dominant?

Frederik Andersen is undoubtedly the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ MVP. Without him, the Buds would not be as remotely successful as they are right now. He’s the busiest goaltender in the league and has won the team more games than I can count.

Auston Matthews is a close second MVP for the Leafs. His clutch goals and dominance on the ice gives the team a chance to win every single night. His ability to score from anywhere and to control the play makes him one of the greatest players in the league and he’s only 20 years old.

Losing these two franchise players should have been crippling for the Leafs. They should be struggling with match-ups and getting outscored.

Instead, they’ve been riding a 12-home game winning streak and are 2-0 (or 3-0 if you count the Dallas game) without their starting goaltender and 5-2-2 without their superstar centre.

What caused this unlikely success? Players have stepped up and taken responsibility and the young rookies/sophomores have helped carry the load.

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In his last three games, James van Riemsdyk has five goals and one assist. Mitch Marner has continued to be hot and is riding a five-game point streak, in which he has two goals and five assists.

Andreas Johnsson chipped in with his first career NHL goal and Kasperi Kapanen had a two-goal night against the Canadiens. Curtis McElhinney recorded a shutout against the Canadiens and had a .950 save percentage against the Sabres. When key players fall down, you need your supporting cast to come to the rescue and the Leafs’ supporting cast have charged onto the scene.

Not enough can be said about the work Sheldon Keefe has done with the Marlies’ graduates. Players like Travis Dermott, Johnsson and Kapanen have amazing hockey IQs and never looked out of place.

They skate amazingly and are not only skilled offensively, they are always in position defensively and take away pucks like it’s nobody’s business. Mike Babcock loves players who can play in every situation (PK, PP, even strength) and the Marlies are pumping out players who can easily slot into any scenario. It’s absolutely remarkable to see how successful these young players are.

Next: Draft risers and fallers in February

The supporting cast has put on an entertaining and dominant performance. However, hopefully they won’t have to be in the spotlight for much longer.