We're heading into a make-or-break part of the season, but things are sunny in Leafland.
- The Leafs are in a playoff spot and even threatening to finish second (!) in the Atlantic. They're three points back of second-place Boston with five games in hand.
- The Leafs are tied for the second-best record in their last ten in the whole NHL--both they and Minnesota have put up 8-1-1. Only Washington (9-0-1) is better--and the Leafs pushed Washington to overtime in their most recent meeting (Washington is the Leafs' OTL in that 8-1-1.)
- Knock aggressively on wood, but the Leafs' NHL roster has maintained an extremely healthy top nine at forward and top four on defence; only a few missed games from Tyler Bozak mar the picture. A big portion of this is very good luck, but a portion is also youth--of those thirteen players, only Bozak and Leo Komarov are over 27.
- This one's a little involved, but it's fun. Take the thirty teams in the NHL, and rank 'em 1-30 based on their 5v5 adjusted CF%, how close their shots-for are, and how distant their shots-against are. Average those three rankings into one overall ranking. The #1 team in the league? Toronto.
If the Leafs can get through their murderous February schedule in solid shape--a tall order, but not impossible--we're probably going to be the first team in a decade to go from last in the league to a playoff spot.
Katya: Kasperi Kapanen Injured Unfortunately, that great Leafs' health hasn't protected the Marlies, as hotshot winger--and probable best player--Kasperi Kapanen is now injured.
Katya: Euro Prospect Report Carl Grundstrom continues to raise hell.
Fanpost: When ____ Scores A Goal In cherished PPP tradition, commenter JimboJet takes a swing at a dumb statistic.
The Athletic: Nikita Zaitsev Profile A look at the Leafs' new top RHD. CSKA Moscow apparently wants him back, so Lou may have a bidding war on his hands as Zaitsev goes RFA this summer. Zaitsev seems to like it here, though. (I've linked this because it's generally good, but there's a dumbo quote about Russian work ethic that shouldn't have made it into the piece.)
TLN Monday Mailbag Our friendly rival Jeffler answers his mail. I don't think he does nearly enough insane Pokémon and philosophy questions, but matter of taste I suppose.
MLHS: Mike Babcock Quotes On Auston Matthews Babs has been very impressed with Auston's play without the puck.
The Ice Garden: An Open Letter To Hayley Wickenheiser A fan pays tribute to one of the most iconic hockey players in history upon her retirement.
SBN: NHL To Scrap Breakaway Skills Competition People seemed to be enjoying the goofiness of the breakaway competition, and of course we can't have that.
Have a wonderful day, everyone. It's going to be touch and go, but we're cheering for the most exciting Leafs team since Mats.