MacArthur catalyst to Leafs’ perfect start

Clarke MacArthur (8470667)

The Toronto Maple Leafs could credit any number of factors for their solid start, but the surprising play of left-winger Clarke MacArthur should top the list.

Already a journeyman who has suited up for three NHL clubs, MacArthur, in his fifth season, finally seems to be making a name for himself in one of the mecca’s of the hockey world.

MacArthur has goals in each of the three games the Leafs have played, including two during Toronto’s 4-3 victory over the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

His four tallies ties him for the early league lead with former Buffalo Sabre teammate Derek Roy and perennial all-star Alexander Ovechkin.

MacArthur’s hot start has paced the Leafs to a perfect 3-0 record and has given the forward a new lease on life following a difficult off-season.

His former club, Atlanta Thrashers, walked away from MacArthur’s modest $2.4-million US arbitration offer, but he insists the contract rejection was a positive event in his growth.

“I was really upset with what happened in the summer, almost sick and tired of that kind of thing,” MacArthur told reporters. “That’s where I am in my career. I just like what they had here. I like the coaching staff. I know how the GM builds teams. Eventually, we are going to win here.”

But he hasn’t done it alone.

MacArthur plays on the team’s second line with Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski and credits the duo in jump-starting his play.

“I’ve been able to find the holes lately and you want to try and ride that as long as you can.” MacArthur said. “My linemates have really been working hard. You’re only as good as your linemates out there. I give them a lot of credit.”

MacArthur always seems at his best when playing against the Penguins. He registered six points in six games last season and is humbled in his ability to attack the Penguins’ defence.

“Maybe it’s the style they play. They’re a high-risk team.” MacArthur said. “They have great offence over there and you get breaks off that once in a while and some nights it’s going to be a nightmare. [Wednesday] we got a few bounces and battled through it all night.”

MacArthur’s strong start is nothing new.

He put up 16 goals last season while sharing time between the Buffalo Sabres and Thrashers.

The winger scored four goals in his first six games with Buffalo, including a three-game goal-scoring streak from Oct. 13–17, 2009.

If MacArthur continues this pace, he could not only eclipse his career high of 17 goals that set in 2008-09, but could become one of the team’s top scorers.

Leafs top scorers find mark early

The Leafs only had two skaters surpass the 20-goal plateau last season. Phil Kessel scored 30 goals in 70 games and current Calgary Flame Niklas Hagman potted 20 between the two clubs.

What these scorers have in common is they both benefited from solid October.

Kessel debuted with the Leafs a month late due to injury, but when he finally started on Nov. 3, it took him only five games to reach the same number of goals MacArthur has through three.

The same goes for Hagman, who took only eight games to tally four goals.

If history is any indication, MacArthur could very well be on his way to establishing himself as a top-tier sniper in Toronto.