The Leafs have just 20 games left and continue to sink in the standings - they're tied with Carolina for points, and Carolina has played one fewer game. There's still time for the Leafs to have their annual draft pick-ruining surge up the standings, but the closest they've come so far is...two wins in a row. The longer the Leafs go with only a couple of wins here and there (and the more teams like Carolina have draft pick-ruining win streaks of their own), the greater their chances of McDavid or Eichel - which, most Leafs fans agree, would be the ideal outcome.
The only problem? Losing may be great for the future success of the team, but it seems to be really hard on the team that's here right now. Quotes from the Leafs' dressing room lately either focus on how stressful the trade deadline is for players or how hard it is to stay positive in the midst of a losing streak. The Leafs organization needs lots of losses for a better draft position. The Leafs roster needs a few wins to keep them from feeling like failures.
As a fan, I also feel a conflict - I want the Leafs to be competitive (the sooner the better), but I still love this team, as poorly constructed as it is, and it's hard to say "good" when yet another buzzer sounds without a win. I've taken to cheering for the success of individual players - multi-point nights for Kessel and Kadri, good defensive decisions by Gardiner and Rielly. I still get a lot of satisfaction when the Leafs outshoot their opponents, since that never used to happen. And I don't care if it makes me a bad tank fan - I want them to win a few games.
Tonight is one of the games I hope they win. Mostly because I want Reimer to have success. His play during this historic time of losing has been better than his win-loss record shows, and while he hasn't always been top-notch, he also hasn't let in any goals from the other end of the ice. A win tonight might take some of the Leafs' minds off the trade deadline. And really, with so many more chances to lose, the Leafs can be forgiven if they take this chance and win. It'd be a nice sendoff for Tyler Bozak! (Please.)
1. The Leafs get a couple of goals early, then the Capitals get one back because no Leafs defenseman can stop Ovechkin. Final score? 3-2 Leafs.
2. Zach Sill gets his first point as a Leaf.
3. The intermission panel devotes a full ten minutes to the hardest question of our times: Who is more uncoachable, Phil Kessel or Alexander Ovechkin?