The Maple Leafs have 20 more regular season games to play, and it’s been a long time since any 20 games in Toronto have seemed less important. This season has been about one thing since before it began: a better playoff performance. Getting there was never even half the battle. But there are things yet to be determined by these 20 games, so here’s a few reasons to pay some attention to the end of the regular season.
1. The Richard Race
Auston Matthews leads the race for the Rocket Richard by five goals over Leon Draisaitl and Chris Kreider, and he’s got the best chance to win it again. How many goals will he get in the next 20 games?
2. The Hart Trophy
Speaking of awards, Matthews is also a top choice to win the Hart this year, along with Igor Shesterkin and Cale Makar. A strong finish might cement his case for the double awards win.
3. The Calder Trophy
Michael Bunting is not going to win the Calder, so get that out of your minds. Toronto bias in voters will not overcome the reluctance to vote for a guy older than both of his better linemates. If that’s not enough, he’s not actually better than Moritz Seider, so forget it.
4. The New Guys
Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell have 20 games to settle in and get ready to be the latest examples of hard work and leadership the Maple Leafs seem to cycle through in their quest to close out a win.
5. Jake Muzzin
Is he coming back? If he does will he be good/bad/indifferent? Having Muzzin return to full health and motivated to really give it all this playoffs would be almost like making another deadline addition. If he’s back, but not even up to what he’s been all season, that’s the worst outcome.
Nothing changed on the goalie front at the deadline, so the race is on to see if Jack Campbell or Petr Mrázek figure it out first. They both need to be at their maximum ability and ready to go by the time puck drops on the first game of the first round. Can they do it?
7. First, Second or Third?
The Leafs are in the playoffs, and the probability they drop out of the top three in the Atlantic is very small, but any of first, second or third is up for grabs. Third is most likely, second is also highly probable, and first requires some assistance from the other teams, mostly a Florida collapse.
The Leafs finally get to play the Panthers on March 27, April 5 and April 23. Nothing like never seeing the best team in your division until after the deadline. But these games should tell us where the Leafs really sit next to the top teams. They also play the Lightning twice.
9. No Rest for the Leafs
A lot of their games against playoff teams come in the final 10 leading up to the Leafs final game of the regular season against the Bruins. While the standings might be set by then, the schedule might keep the Leafs from sitting a lot of their regulars, and keep things interesting.
10. You can’t complain about the refs if you don’t watch the games
Let’s see if Colin Blackwell can draw penalties, since Michael Bunting isn’t much allowed to anymore.
That’s all I’ve got, what is going to keep you tuned in?