Fifteen games into the season and things were looking pretty bleak for Kris Versteeg. After being crowned Brian Burke's best offseason acquisition, Versteeg had fallen out of Leaf fans' good graces.
Versteeg began the year on the top unit with Bozak and Kessel but after these first fifteen games, found himself playing on the third line having picked up a paltry 7 points. Not exactly what we thought we were getting.
Perhaps worse than his meagre point totals was the -6 that was hanging like an albatross in his plus/minus column. Versteeg was supposed to be a solid two-way forward that could be relied on in the defensive zone in addition to providing a boost to the team's underpowered offense. Until tonight, we hadn't seen it.
Against Nashville however, Versteeg was at the top of his game.
Versteeg scored twice, both of which on the powerplay, and had an even plus/minus. On display was his thundering shot, which provided us with precisely the boost our powerplay had been begging for since the beginning of last season.
The powerplay unit of Versteeg, Kessel and Kadri looked very impressive and is a unit that will beg to have some time together as Kadri shifts to center later in the year or next season. These three compliment each other wonderfully in the offensive zone and when your own end isn't a consideration, you have to love the potential for what they can achieve together.
Versteeg has always had a reputation for being a confident guy. A quick search through Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy archives will show you that Versteeg has personality to spare. We haven't seen too much of that this year from Versteeg. Was it the slow start that kept him quiet or was the silence a sign that he was struggling to find his confidence on his new squad?
Whatever the reason, we can expect to hear a lot more from Verbeauty in the coming days as tonight was without question his strongest game as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I don't expect that Versteeg will be moving back on to one of the top two units for the game on Thursday against New Jersey but I would be willing to bet that he sees some significant powerplay time in that game. For the first time in two years, we have a couple of decent looking powerplay units and in a season where special teams will likely decide the fate of our Leafs, maintaining this chemistry is going to be Ron Wilson's greatest challenge.
It's only one game, but the powerplay and Kris Versteeg both seem to have turned the corner. This is what we signed up for this offseason and it's great to see Versteeg deliver.