John Tavares has delivered thus far in his early stint as Maple Leafs captain, with the team somewhat living up to expectations less than a month into the season. Tavares is adding the veteran leadership that Mike Babcock and Co. desired when they installed him as their first true 'C' in decades.
Yet, Tavares won't be able to help them now--at least for a few weeks. The 29-year-old suffered a broken finger in Wednesday night's game in Washington, albeit the shift before he scored a goal. Without their lead man, the Leafs must rely heavily on their two alternates, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, even more than usual.
Two weeks may not sound like a long time, but one look at Toronto's schedule will convince you otherwise. In the next 2+ weeks, the Leafs face the following Stanley Cup contenders: Boston (twice), San Jose, Washington and Las Vegas. Not to mention, a looming battle in Montreal is sure to have every Canadian tuned in.
Matthews is delivering so far this season, with eight points in just as many games to start the year. He'll face even more scrutiny, however, with defenses squarely focused and preparing for him.
As for Marner, his nine points are respectable as well. Yet, the 22-year-old winger must prove he's worth the $11 million-per-season the Leafs are paying him, and that starts now, when they need his scoring punch the most.
Toronto has plenty of ammo to overcome the short-term loss of Tavares. Assuming their stars show up, this won't be a problem.