The St. John’s Maple Leafs are a quarter through their season and despite high expectations, especially with the additions of Nikolai Antropov and Bob Wren from Toronto, the Leafs are struggling two games below .500.
The Leafs haven’t been fully comfortable in their new home of Mile One Stadium, unable to sweep any team at home this season, including the struggling Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Manchester Monarchs. The Leafs ended their homestand with a gutsy 4-2 win over Saint John, after a horrid previous game that had fans booing the team off the ice but when they played their first game of the roadtrip, it ended up another loss, a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Hartford Wolfpack.
So the question has to be asked, What’s the problem here? Here is my thoughts on the Leafs’ recent struggles.
1) Goaltending has been inconsistent. A preseason strength has become mediocre with inconsistent play from both Mike Minard and Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist is prone to give up a soft goal early in the game and Minard hasn’t shown the form that won him team MVP honours last year. And they haven’t been helped by shoddy defensive play.
2) Defence has been a problem. Nathan Dempsey has continued to do what he does best, create offense, leading the AHL in assists and is second in team scoring with 21 points and was nominated by the Leafs for AHL player of the Week. Rearguards Karel Pilar, DJ Smith, Petr Svoboda and Allan Rourke are all minuses in the plus/minus department and some media are wondering why the Leafs let go defensive stalwart Tyler Harlton. Marty Wilford has played well though on defence however.
3) Offense hasn’t been a problem with Donald MacLean having 23 points in 19 games and contributions from Dempsey, Bobby House, Paul Healey, Alex Ponikarovsky and Nikolai Antropov. Bob Wren has 12 points in 12 games but he is a minus 2 and in coach Lou Crawford’s doghouse.
The Leafs play Worcester on the 23rd, Springfield on the 24th and 25th. The Leafs need to get their machine together, or they could fall fast in the AHL.