Kessel, Lupul Leading Maple Leafs’ Offence Isn’t all Good
Photo courtesy of CBC.ca
By Lukas Hardonk (@LukasHardonk)
A four-goal performance on Thursday evening was nothing new for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not only did they reach the back of the net on four separate occasions, but they also managed a power play goal.
Not surprisingly, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul connected once again. They have been the driving force behind a Maple Leafs’ offence that averages 3.15 goals for per game; sixth best in the National Hockey League.
If you’re looking for proof, just simply take a glance at Maple Leaf scoring leaders, where you will find Kessel and Lupul in first and second respectively. In fact, not only are they one-two, but they are dominating in the statistic; next in line is Dion Phanuef with 27 points, 18 less than Lupul’s 45.
With five power play goals each, Kessel and Lupul are tied for first on the team in goals on the man advantage as well. They are also one-two in game winning goals, shots, total goals and assists.
If it wasn’t already, it should be clear by now that Kessel and Lupul own just about every offensive statistic there is to be had on the Leafs roster. This comes as somewhat of a surprise for each player.
It has been said all along that if Kessel is going to reach the 40-goal plateau, he needs to have a solid play-making centre skating on his line.
When the Leafs went out and signed Tim Connolly during the summer of 2011, many people thought that the team had found that centre. The plan for Kessel and Connolly to play together hasn’t exactly panned out, though, and Kessel now finds him skating on the wing beside Tyler Bozak. Still, he is on pace to score 47 by the end of the season.
Lupul, meanwhile, somewhat recently had back surgery that kept him away from the rink for quite some time. When it was time for him to return, he had troubles getting back to where he needed to be in order to contribute at a high level.
Through his first 26 games of the 2010-2011 season with the Anaheim Ducks, Lupul scored just five goals and 13 points after notching 10 goals and 14 points in 23 games one season prior.
It actually got to a point where many thought Lupul’s career was over.
So what has caused these two goal scorers to have such career years?
For Kessel, it was just a matter of finding someone─anyone─who could mesh nicely with his playing style, no matter their salary, age or talent level.
For Lupul, it turned out that all he needed was a little extra ice time and a speedy line to play on. That’s exactly what he got in Toronto, and he is now thriving under the spotlight.
This all sounds great: Two guys on the same team tearing up the league offensively, riding hot streaks of their own (Kessel is on a seven-game point streak, while Lupul has seven points in his last five games) and leading their team to victories.
Really, though, in hindsight, it isn’t all that wonderful.
As mentioned above, the player with the third most amount of points on the Leafs’ roster has 18 less than the second place player, Lupul. Not only do they have 18 less, but that player, Phaneuf, is a defenceman.
Next in line is Tyler Bozak, with 25 points. While 25 points in 35 games is still a relatively good total, it’s a far cry from the 45 that Lupul has notched.
This leaves cause for concern because of one huge factor that neither Kessel or Lupul have had to deal with yet: injuries.
With injuries to the likes of Mike Komisarek, Colby Armstrong, Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, James Reimer, Tyler Bozak and others, all of whom are key players, the Leafs have already lost too many man games.
So if Kessel or Lupul do end up suffering any sort of injury at all, who will replace them on the top line? You could probably make an argument for Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin based on what they have shown they can do in the past, although neither one of them have been playing all too well offensively this season.
Aside from those two, there aren’t really any other wingers who might be considered top line material. This leaves the trade window open, which Leafs general manager Brian Burke openly discussed with ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun on Friday.
As you may already be aware, though, I am not one who likes to stir the pot when it comes to trade or free agent rumours. All I know is that the trade deadline is quickly approaching and, at the very least, a depth move will have to be made.
Follow Lukas on Twitter @LukasHardonk for more Maple Leafs coverage.