Although it’s early in the 2021-22 regular season, some things are coming visibly to the eye. In this post, I’ll share four Toronto Maple Leafs takeaways from the first three games of the season.
Related: Where Has the Maple Leafs’ Top Line Disappeared To, So Far?
Takeaway #1: Michael Bunting Is As Capable As I Expected
Michael Bunting scored his first goal for his hometown team and the Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Saturday night. When Bunting was signed, there was some expectation that he’d come in and do well. However, until this season, he had played only 21 games in total with the Arizona Coyotes last season. Although he scored relatively well during those games, who knew how his talent would translate into his time with his hometown Maple Leafs?
The answer is that so far his skills are translating well. He also impacts the team on the ice because he’s such a pest in front of the net. There should be an over and under about how many times he’s stood in the crease and has been knocked down. He’s always in the opponent’s way.
Not only that, but he can score. He has a really good shot. Saturday’s goal, which can be seen in the video above, wasn’t just reactive. Bunting had to thoughtfully consider and maneuver to get into a good shooting space. But he did it calmly and successfully.
So far, everything we’ve seen about Bunting suggests that he’s going to be value-added to the team at a reasonable price. He’s exactly what the team needs to move forward, and on top of that, he fits into the lineup very well.
Takeaway #2: Wayne Simmonds Is Back From His Injured Wrist
Last season, in early February, Wayne Simmonds was hit by the puck on a clearing attempt and broke his wrist. That was the end of his effectiveness for the season. Until that point had five goals, including three on the power play. That run showed how well Simmonds could do, and this season he’s obviously back from his broken wrist and looks as if he’s the same player he was before last season’s injury.
Simmonds is big and strong enough to control the puck in front of the net. His goal against the Senators was scored only because he couldn’t be moved. He hung in there with his stick on the ice and was rewarded by Rasmus Sandin’s assist.
That big and strong net-front presence will be good for the team. Simmonds brings something different to the team that other teammates can’t match. That something will help the team move forward.
Takeaway #3: Rasmus Sandin Is Going to Be a Strong Player
The number of fans whose opinion I respect believe that Rasmus Sandin is going to become a great defenseman. He has the skills; and, so far this season, he’s really starting to put his game together. Sure, he’ll make mistakes on the ice. He’s young yet. However, Sandin sees the ice well. He passes well. He makes good defensive plays.
In short, Sandin is a good player who is likely to become a top-tier defenseman for the Maple Leafs. This could be a breakout season for him.
Takeaway #4: Jason Spezza Is a Great Value for the Maple Leafs
Has Jason Spezza grown older at all? How much better could he have been 10 years ago than he is in this current form with the Maple Leafs? With Austin Matthews out, he’s been quarterbacking the power play’s top-unit. He’s good at that job. He can pass and find the open player. He’s cool under pressure. He makes smart player.
He’s also fit and never seems to run out of steam. For someone who’s 38 years old – usually the oldest player on the ice – he certainly plays with a great deal of energy. Night after night he shows his value to the team.
Even better, he’s a leader. You can see him before a face-off positioning his teammates on the ice. He’s also growing into an unofficial spokesman for the team. He’s a regular interview, and he always seems to give complementary and honest answers to questions that are opposed to him.
In short, Spezza is an excellent value for the team.
Related: Three Maple Leafs’ Takeaways Game 1: Kampf, Nylander & Campbell
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