James van Riemsdyk has been the Maple Leafs’ most consistent goal scorer this season. And he has some credibility among team greats, having been named the 100th greatest Leaf of all time last year.

But he’s not sure what’s going to happen to the puck he scored with on Tuesday in the Leafs’ slump-busting 8-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. It represented the 20,000th goal in the history of Toronto’s 100-year-old NHL franchise and it’s probably destined for the Hockey Hall of Fame, even though van Riemsdyk might rather have it for his own mantle.

“I should find out about that, but I don’t know if I have the pull for that,” van Riemsdyk said. “That speaks to the tradition and history we have here. To be a small piece of that is pretty cool.”

Maple Leafs history officially rolled on to its second century, and it is off to a better start than the first.

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The Leafs wore throwback Toronto Arena sweaters to commemorate the first game played in NHL history. That was a 10-9 loss by Toronto to the now defunct Wanderers in Montreal.

The Maple Leafs delivered on the promise of an historic “Next Century” game. While van Riemsdyk’s goal was significant from a historical point of view, others were more significant in the here and now, including:

  • Mitch Marner’s first goal in 16 games, part of a four-point game;
  • Leo Komarov’s first goal in nine games; and
  • William Nylander’s first goal in eight games.

Or, as coach Mike Babcock said, it was good to see players score who haven’t scored “in forever.”

And, yes, it was the Leafs’ first win in four games.

Connor Carrick, Kasperi Kapanen, Patrick Marleau and Tyler Bozak also scored for Toronto, which had its way with Carolina, firing 36 shots at goaltender Scott Darling. Bozak also had three assists. Carolina’s Jeff Skinner had the only goal among the 33 shots against Frederik Andersen.

“The little dip we were on, we weren’t finding ways to get points in the standings,” van Riemsdyk said. “Today we came out and started the game the way we wanted to and kept going from there.”

Butkus Bears Butkus Bears Jersey

Through the Leafs’ ups and downs this season, van Riemsdyk has been the team’s most reliable scorer. He leads the team with 16 goals, and is on pace for 38, which would be the highest of his career. That would easily eclipse the career-best 30 he scored in 2013-14.

“He’s got real good hands,” Babcock said. “That’s what he does, he goes to the net. The better the other guys play, the more the puck gets there, the more he’s going to score.”

That van Riemsdyk is a pending unrestricted free agent might have something to do with his production this year, but his skill and level of professionalism as a nine-year pro is also a contributing factor.

“I try to have a consistent approach,” he said. “Try not to get too high or too low. Again, you learn some things over the years to stay in that mindset, and try not to let things swing too far one way or another.”

8 For Mcmanus Brandon Sale He says he’s better at tuning out the white noise, which can be considerable in this market, regarding wins, losses, streaks and slumps.

“It’s easier said than done,” said van Riemsdyk, who hasn’t gone more than six games without scoring this season. “We’re all human and we care and take a lot of pride in what we do. That can be hard sometimes. But the approach of making sure you’re prepared (helps you focus).”

8 For Mcmanus Brandon Sale Van Riemsdyk seemed happiest that Marner and Nylander ended prolonged slumps. Both are second-year players. He remembered tough times in his second year.

“My second season, I didn’t score my first goal of the year until the 21st game of the season,” said van Riemsdyk. “It wasn’t fun, that’s for sure. As far as getting chances, I thought I was doing a good job. It just wasn’t going in. When you’re younger, maybe you start to cheat a little more for offence and not focus on the process as much.”

Van Riemsdyk turned to Flyers teammates like Daniel Briere for advice, much like Marner has turned to him.

“I had some good veteran guys around me who reminded me when you’re not scoring, you’ve got to make sure the other areas of your game are strong,” said van Riemsdyk. “Being a winger, that’s being good on the walls, and getting the puck out, and not turning pucks over. Usually it all evens itself out.”