Don’t look now, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are the best team in the NHL.
The club took the lead Friday night with a win over the Anaheim Ducks, sweeping California on what has been a dazzling year on the road so far. The Maple Leafs own the best road record this season, going 9-1-0 away from home.
They’re also the most offensively capable club in the NHL, scoring a league-high 70 goals so far.
Sweeping California isn’t something Toronto does often, by the way. They’ve only gone 3-0 on a Cali road trip twice before, most recently in December of 1995.
So, here we are.
Toronto has won six of their last seven and haven’t lost in three overtime games this year.
Morgan Rielly scored the winner Friday, his ninth goal and 25th point, and that makes him the most proficient defenceman of the year. Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot and San Jose’s Brent Burns are tailing.
For the record, in 2016-2017, the 24-year-old had just 27 points all season. He doubled his production to 52 points last season and there’s every reason to suggest he’s in for more this year.
Rielly is just one point off Mitch Marner for the team lead in scoring, while John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen/Nazem Kadri round out the top five.
Matthews, as you know, has been limited to just 11 games this season but he’s still got 16 points. Imagining how compelling the Leafs will be with him back in the fold is a scary thought.
But even without Matthews and contract holdout William Nylander, this is an amazing run for Toronto. Players have come up big in the gaps, with Marner putting together 13 points since Matthews’ injury.
The Maple Leafs showed how good they really were against California, but the truth has to be told: this isn’t the best the Golden State has to offer. Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim are minus-36 combined and Toronto outscored them 12-5 on the swing. They looked faster, better, more together than their Californian opposition.
We’ve already talked at length about how appalling Los Angeles is – and will be for a while – and the Ducks, too, are similarly rather slow but for dissimilar reasons. Anaheim fell to 8-10-3 and are among the league’s most wounded, dressing 21 different forwards this year. Only John Gibson’s been holding them down, so it stands to reason that a hot T-Dot club took advantage.
Toronto will return home and face the Blue Jackets Monday. Columbus sits atop the Metropolitan Division, just two points ahead of the New York Islanders.