No matter how much young talent the Toronto Maple Leafs have on their roster (and they have a lot) this was still always going to be another long season. The organization is on the right track, but it’s not where it needs to be just quite yet.
There will be flashes of brilliance and potential, but there are still going to be some pretty significant growing pains and a lot of frustration along the way.
Just five games into the season, they have already experienced plenty of the latter.
First there was rookie sensation Auston Matthews scoring four goals in his NHL debut and the team still finding a way to lose the game.
Then there was the game in Winnipeg where they jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then ended up losing in overtime. Earlier this week they let another third period lead slip away against Minnesota.
On Saturday, they added another one to the list in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
For 57 minutes it looked as if the young Maple Leafs were going to add to the Blackhawks’ early season woes as they held a 4-2 lead and seemed to be in control of the game. The young players were scoring goals, they were the latest team to beat the Blackhawks’ shoddy penalty killing unit, and they seemed on their way to a big early season win on the road against a top team.
Then everything fell apart. Again.
Chicago’s Artem Anisimov scored with less than three minutes to play to cut the deficit to one.
Then just one minute later Richard Panik (former Toronto Maple Leaf Richard Panik) continued his early season goal scoring surge by netting his league leading sixth goal of the year to tie the game and send it to overtime.
After the two teams failed to score in the 3-on-3, it went to a shootout where Jonathan Toews and Artemi Panarin scored goals to help the Blackhawks get back into the win column and sent the Maple Leafs home with another tough loss.
If you’re an optimist in Toronto you have to look at the fact that this young, talented Maple Leafs team has at least earned a point in all but one of its first five games.
They are competing, they are showing signs of being an entertaining team with a strong foundation in place.
They have actually had the lead going into the third period of every game they have played.
Yet here they are, five games into the season, still sitting with only one win.