If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you’re probably living it up a little. Maybe.
While there’s always been a churning sense of trepidation that comes with following the blue and white, there’s also a sense of something else. Something that says this cherished franchise should be better, should be able to produce, should be able to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup once more.
Enter the 2018-2019 edition of the Maple Leafs, a crew so full of flair that it can’t help but triumph over those league-wide forces of darkness.
So far, things are going according to plan. Auston Matthews and Johnny-come-lately John Tavares are lighting the lamp with symmetry, producing at a pace we haven’t seen much of in modern hockey.
In fact, Tavares and Matthews are just the third set of teammates in NHL history to have scored at least six goals each in the first four games of a season. Also, they’re the first set of teammates since 1917-1918 to do so.
It’s a comically specific statistic, but it highlights exactly how explosive Toronto’s offensive is at this point.
Matthews has 10 points ahead of tonight’s contest against the Detroit Red Wings, where he’ll surely pile up more. That makes him the sixth player in franchise history to score at least one goal in each of the first four games of a season. The 2010-2011 derring-do of one Clarke MacArthur was noteworthy in that respect, while you’d have to go way back to the early 1980s and the wonder that was former Dallas Black Hawk John Anderson to find the next specimen.
Tavares, meanwhile, has six goals in his first four games as a Maple Leaf. That’s a pretty good start.
The squad has scored 20 goals, averaging five a game, and has scored at least seven goals in successive games for just the third time in the past 20 years. They accomplished a comparable streak in December of 2017, but this feels special.
This feels momentous.
Scoring customarily is up to start a season and you’d have to moderate this hubbub in Leafdom with a dose of truth. Eventually, Matthews and Tavares will come back down to earth and the pace will slow. Probably.
In the first 41 games of the season, league-wide, there were 260 non-shootout goals. That’s an average of 6.34 goals per game, which is on par with last year’s statistics for the same period. But things classically fall off in November as teams get used to the grind. December represents a big drop, characteristically, and then there’s an upturn as the playoffs approach.
That’s partly a matter of perspective, of course. You could argue that this edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs is dominant and will be unswervingly great throughout the season. You’d have a pretty good case. This is a wonder to behold if you’re a fan.
But as for more, like Lord Stanley’s Cup? That will take more than scoring in alarming bunches. And winning a 7-6 shootout decision against the Chicago Blackhawks, as Toronto did during a wild and woolly Sunday night, doesn’t exactly scream “team defence.”