The see-saw season for the Toronto Maple Leafs is getting ever closer to the finish line. With 13 games left to play, they are only 3 points up on Florida for the final division spot — and the Florida Panthers have one game in hand.
A 5 point lead the Leafs built up has shrunk thanks to their traditional struggle on their California road trip.
The bad news:
- The Leafs got outplayed pretty badly on the road trip against three pretty bad teams
- They only scored 3 goals the whole trip
- This coming week the Leafs face: Tampa, Nashville, and Boston. Not an easy week.
The good news:
- The Leafs have started getting good goaltending again, even by Frederik Andersen!
- They’re starting to get healthier, with Cody Ceci returning last week, Morgan Rielly possibly returning this week, and the chance of Ilya Mikheyev and Jake Muzzin returning in the next two weeks.
- They’re still getting beastly seasons by Auston Matthews and William Nylander!
It will be interesting to see how the Leafs handle an (almost) fully healthy roster. Mikheyev returning would seem to solve Keefe’s apparent issue with how he creates his third line — MIkheyev can play with Tavares and Willy, and Engvall and Kerfoot can be mercifully stapled on the third line where they belong.
It’s on defense where things will get interesting. The Leafs will be back to trying to figure out the best pairings between their left-shooters (Rielly, Muzzin, Dermott, Sandin) and their right-shooters (Barrie, Holl, Ceci). It also creates a situation where Rasmus Sandin might be the odd man out, and if he’s not going to be getting much player time he may well be sent back to the Marlies to avoid hitting that 40 game mark.
Reminder: those 40 games are for just being on the roster, he accrues games even if he’s scratched.
I think I speak for all Leafs fans where all I want down this last stretch of the season is to start being consistent and consistently good. None of these huge peaks and valleys period to period, game to game, or week to week. They’ll lose some games but by god can they just please not look like they’re getting completely outclassed and fight to make it close.
ONTO THE LINKS
Have teams figured out how to defend the Maple Leafs’ new playbook? | by Scott Wheeler at The Athletic — a good ready for people who aren’t the best at seeing a team’s systems during live play [raises hand] to see some tactical problems the Leafs have been dealing with lately.
Back to Excited Episode 96: Time Machines and Bad Playoff Ideas | by Arvind and Fulemin
Arvind also cheated on Fulemin and had a guest appearance on the Everything Leafs Podcast with Kevin Papetti.
The Leafs Should Bring P.K. Home to Toronto | by Totally Offside at TLN
AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD
How NHL Seattle is changing the game with focus on diversity | by Emily Sadler at Sporstnet
Kyle Dubas is leading the charge in keeping the players safe from themselves: