The Toronto Maple Leafs look to be on the same 18-wheeler that they were on a couple years ago. Somehow they managed to reclaim it from the bottom of the cliff and it looks to be going down the same road again.
With Friday night’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Maple Leafs have now lost four in a row. Sure, you can’t be too upset about losing to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions but look at the previous three games. After a 4-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks, the Leafs couldn’t keep up with the Los Angeles Kings the next night. They lost that game 2-1, which is good considering what happened two days later in San Jose.
It was then the Leafs had their worst loss of the season, getting shellacked 7- 0 by the Sharks. At least the Sharks are contending for the playoffs. On Wednesday, against Columbus, the Leafs could not use the same excuse. The Blue Jackets are one of the few teams in the entire NHL that less points than the Leafs and they couldn’t muster up a goal until late in the third period, eventually losing 3-1.
Now let’s look at the rest of the Leafs season.
In the rest of the month, the Leafs take on Boston, Philadelphia, Carolina, Montreal, Florida and Tampa Bay. Only the Hurricanes and Flyers are currently out of a playoff spot and the Canes are only one point out of the second wild card spot. Philadelphia is only six points ahead of Toronto but are definitely looking to make a push towards the playoffs with the move they made last week and more moves possibly to come. The easiest game for the Leafs just might be Montreal, who are struggling to maintain a playoff position with Carey Price still out.
In February, the Leafs play Boston, New Jersey, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Chicago, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Nashville, Carolina, Montreal and Tampa Bay. Other than the Flyers and Hurricanes, the non-playoff teams added are New Jersey (two points out), Ottawa (three points out), Nashville (one point out in West), Vancouver (one point out), Calgary (five points out) and Edmonton (12 points out). The Oilers are the only team below the Leafs in the standings.
March doesn’t get any easier as they play Washington, Minnesota, Ottawa twice, Buffalo, the New York Islanders, Detroit, Tampa Bay twice, Florida twice, Buffalo twice, Calgary, Anaheim, and Boston. The Ducks (two points out in West) and Sabres (11 points out in East) are added to the non- playoff team list. Again, the Leafs only play one team below them in the standings in Buffalo. Also, with the Trade Deadline on February 29, the Leafs team we see in March could be vastly different than the one we see now.
The Leafs close out the season with five games with April. They play Detroit, Florida, Columbus, Philadelphia and New Jersey.
Of course, the standings could change a lot in the next few months but with the playoff races in both conferences being so tight, all but a few teams the Leafs will face will be constantly be fighting for a spot. Again, with the Trade Deadline being a bit over six weeks away, the Leafs lineup will be changed and probably not for the better.
The Maple Leafs face an uphill battle in the remaining 40 games of the season and since they can’t seem to beat the few teams below them in the standings, there won’t be any breathers for them either. However, the plan for the season is to finish as low as possible, or at least it should be. So in that case, the second half of the season should help with that immensely.