Toronto was flying so high.
That, of course, was before Tampa Bay came to town. Led by Steven Stamkos who ‘spurned’ Toronto as an unrestricted free agent over the summer (actually, he decided to re-sign with the team that drafted him), the Bolts came into Air Canada Centre and ravaged the Maple Leafs, 7-3.
Stamkos, who finished with two goals and four points, was booed every time he touched the puck (or so it seemed that way). He also scored or set up a goal every time he touched the puck (or so it seemed that way). The 26-year-old now has nine points on the season and 571 for his career. He’s staring at the likelihood of recording his 600th career point before his 27th birthday.
It couldn’t have happened any better.
Stamkos had been primed to sign with Toronto, and Tampa was playing in a window as a result. Then Steve Yzerman worked his magic and kept the star in Tampa Bay. Suddenly the Lightning remained a team primed to compete for years to come. The Maple Leafs remained a team of the future.
Toronto will be a good team in short time; with Auston Matthews, Morgan Reilly, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner already playing big NHL minutes. Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic await in the wings.
Tampa Bay is a great team right now. Out to a 5-1 start, the Bolts show no signs of slowing down. Goaltender Ben Bishop is a likely candidate to be traded at some point this season, which would garner a return that could make the Lightning an embarrassment of riches.
And it all began with Stamkos choosing to stay and not go sign with his hometown team.
2- Montreal: The Canadiens have allowed just nine goals in six games. Carey Price played in three of them.
3- Washington: The Capitals are tied for 23rd on the powerplay, connecting at a 12.5 percent clip. Conventional wisdom suggests that will rise rapidly at some point.
4- Pittsburgh: The Penguins will benefit from the return of Sidney Crosby, who is playing the best hockey of what will be a Hall of Fame career.
5- San Jose: Sharks allow the lowest shots on goal per game in the Western Conference (24.9).
6- St. Louis: Jay Bouwmeester is sitting on 997 career games.
7- Florida: The Panthers are third in the league with 4.73 penalties drawn per 60 minutes
8- Chicago: Blackhawks goaltending has stopped pucks at a .898 clip with a 3.13 GAA.
9- Edmonton: The Oilers are 5-1 for the first time in 30 years.
10- Minnesota: The Wild have 16 different goal scorers this season. Last year, they had 22 all season.
11- Dallas: Devin Shore tied with Tyler Seguin for the team lead with six points, which ranks third among rookies.
12- N.Y. Rangers: Rangers check in at third in the league with a 53.4 percent faceoff percentage.
13- Detroit: In the Red Wings two losses to begin the season: 10 goals allowed; in five games since, al wins: seven goals allowed.
14- N.Y. Islanders: The Isles are the class of the league on the penalty kill, they’ve killed off 22 of 23 man-advantages.
15- Nashville: Predators are tied for last with New Jersey and Columbus in five-on-five goals, with six.
16- Anaheim: The Ducks have dished out a league-high 200 hits.
17- Philadelphia: Matt Read has five goals on 19 shots.
18- Colorado: A 3-2 start through a brutal five-game stretch to begin the season. Not bad.
19- Boston: Another stinker for Malcolm Subban. He’s allowed six goals on 22 shots in two NHL games.
20- Ottawa: The Senators are off to a very quiet 4-2 start. This was a team nobody seem to know what to expect at the start of the season. In fact, we still may not particularly know.
21- Calgary: The last two games, wins over St. Louis and Chicago, is what kept the Flames from flirting with No. 30.
22- New Jersey: Taylor Hall accounts for five of the 13 goals the Devils have scored this year.
23- Los Angeles: Only defensemen Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, and Alec Martinez have played more minutes than Anze Kopitar, who is averaging 22:04 per night.
24- Columbus: Since the Jackets’ 6-3 loss to Boston in its first game – one-goal loss to San Jose, wins over Chicago and Dallas, an overtime loss to Los Angeles.
25- Toronto: The Maple Leafs offense has generated 56 points. Auston Matthews and William Nylander account for 19.
26- Winnipeg: The Jets have yet to win a game in regulation.
27- Buffalo: Rasmus Ristolainen 12th in the NHL with 24:57 ice time per game.
28- Vancouver: The Canucks are 0-2-1 since beginning 4-0.
29- Carolina: Eddie Lack and Cam Ward have combined for a 4.01 GAA.
30- Arizona: The Coyotes allow the most shots on net per game.