Other than the breakthrough seasons both Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul appear to be having, this would be the first convincing piece of evidence that the Maple Leafs' strong start may not be a mirage.
Like a superb goalie, a superb power play can cover up a lot of weaknesses on just about any hockey club. And right now, at least, the Leafs have that power play, third best in the NHL according to this morning's stat sheet.
At 22.6 per cent, buoyed by a 10-for-24 run over the past seven games, the Leafs trail only Vancouver and Colorado in terms of efficiency with the man advantage. Ron Wilson's crew, with assistant Scott Gordon apparently organizing the power play unit, has scored 10 power play goals at home and nine on the road, a nice even split.
That's obviously helped to keep the Leaf offence rolling at fifth best in the league, averaging 3.09 goals per game.
But a power play means more than just a number. It can be a dagger in the heart of the opponent, or it can change a game, or it can force an opponent to defend less aggressively for fear of taking penalties.
It's been seemingly forever since the Leafs had this ability to strike with the man advantage. The club hasn't had a power play that ranked higher than 15th overall since Pat Quinn's last season as head coach in 2005-06 when the Leafs had the NHL's second best power play. That produced a 90 point season, two points shy of a playoff berth.
Having Kessel, the NHL's leading scorer, obviously helps, and as of this morning, Lupul, was No. 2 in the scoring race. In all, 18 of their combined 56 points have been at extra strength.
The team has improved dramatically on entering the offensive zone when armed with the man advantage, frequently using the popular technique of dropping the puck to a trailing forward or defenceman in the neutral zone on the rush. Tim Connolly has sure helped when he's been available, and John-Michael Liles (10 points on the road versus three at home) seems to be more comfortable every game with his new teammates.
You can be average, or even below average, in a number of areas and get away with it if you have one big weapon, and right now, the Leaf power play is that weapon. It's a big reason why since James Reimer was lost Oct. 22nd in Montreal, Toronto has been able to keep its head above water with a 7-7-1 mark in 15 games.
Power plays get hold and get cold, go up and down as a season progresses. But if the Leafs can stay in the NHL's top 10 in this category, it's a reason to believe.