Leo Komarov figured to be a solid third- or fourth-line winger, with something resembling Darcy Tucker’s ability to get the opposition off its game. No one expected Komarov to lead NHL rookies in hits.
Jay McClement figured to be a depth forward, a veteran presence on one of the league’s youngest teams. No one expected him to lead the NHL in penalty-killing minutes.
The Leafs also lead the league in fighting majors, less of a surprise but a significant element of their identity.
Here’s a closer look at these three key factors as the Leafs head into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2004:
KOMAROV: The Finn leads all first-year players with 166 hits and sits fourth overall, one up on ex-Leaf Luke Schenn. Komarov doesn’t have Tucker’s ability to score, but he’s an agitator. He has also been, for the most part, a fixture in Randy Carlyle’s lineup. His “hit anything that moves” style could be a valuable asset in the post-season. Teammates Mark Fraser, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson and Nikolai Kulemin also cracked the top 30 in hits heading into the weekend.
McCLEMENT: The veteran is beginning to receive widespread credit for his work on the penalty kill. He has consistently ranked No. 1 in man-short ice time, working more than the equivalent of eight full periods. The impact is clear. The Leafs rank third in the NHL in penalty killing this year, after finishing second-last in that category last season.