Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-20 season preview

Gordon Brown
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Leafs' new-look power play projects to be an unparalleled force

The Toronto Maple Leafs begin the 2019-20 campaign on Wednesday night with sky-high expectations and plenty of new faces on the roster.

Among the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is assistant coach Paul McFarland, 33, who constructed the league’s second-best power play last season with the Florida Panthers. It had a 26.8 per cent rate of success, for a team that failed to qualify for the playoffs.

If the pre-season showed us anything, it’s that the new power-play system appears to be working for Toronto’s talented core. 

“There’s lots of really good things about it,” said head coach Mike Babcock, following Saturday’s pre-season finale. “It’s just a matter of time. I think we’ve got a good scheme and good players, so ideally it’ll work.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go as good as you want, you’ve just got to keep doing good things and it’ll happen. I thought we had good tenacity tonight.”

Each of Toronto’s two power-play units scored, converting 3-of-4 opportunities, in a 5-0 decimation of the Detroit Red Wings to set high expectations heading into the season. 

The balanced attack of each of the Leafs’ two units comes as a benefit of their deep pool of talent. Depth is having household names such as Tyson Barrie and William Nylander on the team’s second power-play unit.

Certain members of the team appear to be aware of just how good their special teams can be, as displayed in Saturday’s showcase.

“We’ve got plenty of skill, lots of guys that can put the puck in the net and make plays all-around,” said Auston Matthews, in the Toronto dressing room. “When you get a couple of different looks and a couple of goals from each unit, it definitely gives us an advantage and makes it tough on the [opposing] penalty kill.”

Confidence is a big factor in performing to the best of one’s ability. The Leafs boast plenty of it despite not making it past the first round of the playoffs for three consecutive years.

A captain still remains to be named amidst uncertainty but there’s plenty of leadership to go around.

“When you shoot the puck a couple of times and get them to spread out, our skill just takes over and we just make plays,” said Matthews. “It’s nice to get a couple on the power play here and carry that into the regular season.”

There’s a reason for optimism in Leafs Nation but the real challenge, a quest for Lord Stanley, commences on Wednesday versus the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Arena.