A power play bordering on a 30% success rate should have the Leafs coaching staff dancing in the streets.
But puffed up pre-season numbers are one thing, executing in real game is another. The Leafs were last in the NHL at 14% last season and even a big improvement like their 14-for-47 would have to go hand-in-hand with fixing their penalty kill, which also was a league-worst 74.7%.
“We need to be good — and not be good just once a week,” said left winger Kris Versteeg, who had a goal and assist with the man advantage on Saturday against Detroit.
Linemate Phil Kessel has four power-play goals and Tyler Bozak, while not scoring, is having a positive effect. Then there’s the defensive pairing of Dion Phaneuf, with his heavy shot, and pass-happy Tomas Kaberle, who actually shot twice against the Wings and ended up with a goal and assist on the two plays.
“Our power play, especially the first unit, is scary-dangerous right now,” coach Ron Wilson said. “And they’ve been good against regular penalty killers.
“We have things to fix on the penalty kill, but in general it has been breakdowns in the back-end in coverage and not what our forwards have failed to do. The defence has to do some little things better.”
Kaberle laughed when asked if he should have given away his stick to a fan on Saturday after he found a scoring touch with it.
“I’m just happy the power play is working,” Kaberle said. “We’re moving our feet and the puck as well. When you keep the puck in circulation good things are going to happen. We can’t be stationary so we’re too easy to pick up.
“We’re getting a lot of shots and when you get the screens (Phaneuf did a great job on Kaberle’s goal) pucks will go in.”
Has Kaberle finally heard the agonized cries of the home fans who have yelled at him to shoot on the power play almost from the moment he arrived in 1998?
“It depends what the other teams give us,” he said. “Every team gives us different options. The good thing is we don’t have just one option. A lot of teams think we’ll give it to Dion for a one-timer. Some nights that will work, sometimes not.
“Steeger (Versteeg) and Bozie (Bozak) have great shots as well and they’re smart players. Now, other teams are going to have to worry about all five guys.”