TORONTO - Looks like it’s about time for the Maple Leafs to start kicking the tires and see what it might take to keep the team’s leading scorer around for a couple more seasons.
When Clarke MacArthur got off to a fast start to his first season in Toronto, the easy knock was to dismiss him as a career Mr. October.
The goal scoring did slow down eventually, but when it did he became a reliable playmaker and a big influence on getting production from both Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin.
And along the way, he’s become the team’s long consistent performer, adding a goal and a pair of assists to give him 40 points on the season.
He may never be the type of player you build a team around, but MacArthur was the best skater on the Air Canada Centre ice again Thursday, a big reason the Leafs bounced back from a 7-0 embarrassment the night before in Manhattan to score a 5-2 win over the Ducks.
“He tries to bring the energy to everyone in the room,” said defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, who scored his third of the season off a great MacArthur set up. “Since he got here, he’s been like that and he’s been one of our best players.”
With 40 points, MacArthur is already five better than his previous career high and has long since erased whatever risk GM Brian Burke might have taken in signing him to a one-year deal.
“I’m playing with good players, that’s what it comes down to,” MacArthur said. “I’m playing the offensive role I should be playing.”
As for pending negotiations on making him something more than a one-year wonder, MacArthur says bring it on: “I leave that to my agent, but it’s something I’d love to see get done.”
One was a gift, the other a goal-scorer’s touch, but a pair of scores for Leafs forward Grabovski allowed him to match his career-high as he hit 20 in a season for the second time. It also saw him leapfrog Phil Kessel for the team lead in goals ... Apparently Leafs defencemen don’t have the copyright on brutal giveaways. Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan coughed up the puck in front of his own net to give Grabovski what might have been the easiest of those 20. Worse, it gave the Leafs a two-goal cushion early in the third. “We gave them goals,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “You can’t do that in this league, no matter who your goalie is.” ... Leafs forward Colby Armstrong on what the team might have learned from some video review of the Rangers debacle. “There wasn’t much to look at.” ... As good as he has been on the ice, MacArthur has also been a leader off of it, showing no patience for the ugly defeats. “That was an unacceptable effort,” MacArthur said of the Rangers game. “It’s hard to sleep after a game like that. It’s not fair to the goalies or anybody to come out and leave guys hung out to dry like we did. Tonight we played with pride.” ... Turning point for the Leafs was probably a couple of big penalty kills early in the second. In fact, the Leafs had a couple of big scoring chances on each and even though they were leading 2-1 at the time, the Ducks were cooked ... While they had no fight the night before, the Leafs twice came back from Anaheim leads and have now won eight games when the opponent has opened the scoring.
A staged fight with George Parros just 2:15 into the game didn’t work out so well for Leafs enforcer Colton Orr, who didn’t return the rest of the game. That led to the stat of the night: Total ice time for No. 28 — two seconds. It may have led to something worse — like a possible concussion. “He hit his face on the ice so he’s a little woozy,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “Now a read flag goes up whenever a guy hits his head.” The other red flag, of course, will be the value of any staged scrap ... Dion Phaneuf’s offensive touch is still missing, but when he brings his nasties to the rink, he can be a big influence. A couple of big early hits helped make sure the Leafs had their heads in this one. “That was Dion’s best game in a month,” Wilson said. “He came out hitting and skating. When he’s ornery like that, he’s a hard guy to play against.” ... Grabovski’s goal put him back on a point a game clip for the past 22 games ... Was that really the Ducks’ Jason Blake going hard to the net early in the third? ... Nothing against Gunnarsson, who has played better lately, but he leads all blueliners in scoring with three goals. The team is desperate for more from both Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle, who each have just one goal (though Kaberle has 28 assists). Luke Schenn is second in D-man scoring with two ... Point worth asking (again). Would you rather see Kessel or Grabovski as the Leafs’ all-star rep?