Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Solid Games With Kadri in the Lineup

Kadri made his season's debut on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks and since then the Toronto Maple Leafs have strung together three strong outings.  Has Kadri singlehandedly plucked the Leafs out of their slump? No, of course not.  Having said this, he has provided the team with a much needed shot in the arm as well as a boost to the powerplay.

Kadri has picked up three points in his first three games since being called up which is certainly more than was expected of him at the time.  While he's still looking for his first goal of the year, he has two primary assists and two powerplay assists.  Big contributions from a 20 year old.

Whether Kadri has been on the ice or not, the Leafs' powerplay went 4 for 7 against Nashville and 2 for 3 against New Jersey.  After being abysmal through the first fifteen games of the season, it seems like our powerplay is back to being 'scary good' as it was in the preseason.

The keys for the Leafs over Kadri's three games has been taking fewer penalties and capitalizing on opponents' infractions.  Special teams was always going to be the key for this team as their five on five scoring was expected to struggle this year.  Putting up lopsided special teams figures is going to continue to be the key as this team pushes towards the Eastern Conference top 8.

I've been a little critical of Ron Wilson recently, suggesting he change his lines and lighten up in the criticism of his players.  Well, the lines have changed and the attitude seems to have improved (something that often coincides with winning and strong performances) and I have to say, Wilson has controlled his team well over these last three matchups.

The timeout he took against Nashville, despite the result immediately thereafter, was well-timed.  Whatever he said to the team between periods obviously resonated with them as the Leafs stormed back from being 3 goals down on two separate occasions to win the game.

The line combinations look glorious on paper and in reality.  MacArthur and Grabovski continue to look good together and Kulemin has been solid on every line he's played on thus far.  Kadri, Bozak and Kessel have been great in the offensive zone and haven't looked nearly as bad defensively as I thought they would.  Versteeg being the primary option on the third line has worked fairly well and they haven't seemed to suffer defensively for his having been there.

Kadri should also give the Leafs a boost in the shootout.  This team has been abysmal in the shootout the past two years (despite Wilson's insinuation that it's nothing more than a coin flip) and I have to think that having both Kadri and Mitchell in the lineup will provide a boost in this area of the game (otherwise why the hell is Mitchell playing?).  Laugh if you want, but the couple of points that these guys could grab for us in extra-extra time could be the difference between 8th and 9th.

In short, Kadri hasn't been a 'savior' but he's been very solid.  His inclusion in the lineup has led to three separate forward units that work and a powerplay that has been deftly effective.  I don't expect our powerplay will continue at anywhere near this pace (how could it) but if we keep it in the top half in the league in terms of efficiency we'd be making great strides towards a playoff spot.

Kadri hasn't done it on his own, but he has been the key ingredient in bringing the team's lineup into balance.


Leafschatter said...

Both Kadri and Versteeg have ignited a power play which has been lacking since Mats Sundin left the team.

Kadri has a knack for finding Kessel on the ice. He setup Kessel's game winning goal. In addition, he setup two of Versteeg's three power play goals.

He has what Don Cherry's terms "magic hands".

All strongly indicating Kadri is a true top three forward.

Shrimp Daddy said...

Kadri's presence has also created more room for Kessel and Bozak.

Navin V. said...

I'm just pleased Kadri is getting top-flight minutes. He looks confident out there. He's taking his time with the puck, too. Even after last Saturday, when the puck bounced off his stick on the odd-man rush, he hasn't let it effect him. I like that. Great short-term memory. He made a couple of nifty passes in that game, too. He's got vision, something sorely lacking up front on the Leafs. I'm excited about this kid.

Curt S said...

@ Navin

I agree, it's great to see him being put in a position to succeed rather than fail. Now if we could only get Caputi in the lineup and playing more than 7-10 minutes that would be fantastic.

Leafschatter said...

Unless Kadri moves to C, I don't see room for Caputi as top six winger with Kessel, Kulemin, MacArthur, and Kadri. If Kadri is moved to C, they may decide to move Versteeg back into top six.

Caputi may need to develop his game to be a 3rd line LW because most top six forwards can play in the NHL at age 22.

If other NHL managers see Caputi as a top six winger, there might be a trade opportunity for Toronto.

Curt S said...

I think a third line centered by Versteeg with Caputi and Sjostrom on the wings has a lot of promise.

Solid forecheckers, good in their own zone with Caputi supplying the size and Versteeg supplying the majority of the offense. Seems like it could work just fine to me and it would get Caputi into the 'teens' in icetime.

Leaf.Fan.Gordo said...

Im with you. Get Caputi in already. He's rotting in the pressbox right now and we could have got a second rounder for Ponikarrovsky instead so we better use him.

Leafschatter said...

Playing behind John Mitchell is not a good indicator for Caputi's future. Probably sitting in the press box because his contract is the most cap/waiver rule friendly amongst the NHL-viable players with the Marlies while the Leafs wait for Armstrong to return.