The Leafs have won three of four and have points in six of their last seven. All is well………Or is it?
Now, I just want to preface this by saying that I want the Leafs to win. I want them to make the playoffs and I hope that I am wrong in my prediction that they won’t. I also want to point out how pathetic it is that the goal of the storied and revered Toronto Maple Leafs is to just qualify for the damned Playoffs. The Toronto NHL franchise should be nothing less than a perennial contender, and even if they have to rebuild periodically, I don’t mind. What I do mind is one Post-Season appearance in a decade culminating in a team that is happy with being middle-of-the-pack and a fan-base that thinks this is alright.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve written before that I like the general make-up of the team and that I potentially like where it has a chance to be in two or three years. However, what’s got me good and pissed is reading article after article about “the team’s turn-around,” and “recent success.”
Because, in case you missed the part where the internet was invented, fans became smarter and stats illuminated some hard truths (Bozak isn’t good at defense, face-offs barely matter, offense has been grossly underrated etc.) you really shouldn’t be too happy about the Leafs recent play.
I mean, shouldn’t we all be smart enough to not get roped in by favorable results at this point?
To Wit: They beat Washington and a couple of terrible goalies 6-2 despite being out-shot 37-23. Then they managed to beat the Stars despite allowing close to 40 shots, while once again playing a goalie on an off night. Then, this past weekend, they beat the Canucks, even though they (Toronto) played horribly. Vancouver almost put 50 shots on Bernier, who had to play out-of-his mind to preserve a four goal lead. Do I even need to go into how closely the Leafs of this past Saturday night resembled the team that infamously blew a three goal lead in game seven against the Bruins with ten minutes left?
Do I dare bring up how the early success of last season circled the drain for two horrible months before it all came crashing down?
Now, it’s not the Leafs fault they win games they by all rights should lose. But, I don’t get why the media is so soft on them, why the fans shout you down if you bring up the inevitable, or why everyone seems content to go through a season with a lame-duck coach and GM combo, a brutal group of defenseman, a bunch of reclamation projects and a complete butchering of the development process by giving prime ice-time to a guy who won’t be here next year (while withholding it from the two guys who will be) in an effort to squeeze out every single last two-points, when the best thing that could happen is getting a high draft pick?
Or what about the fact the team has Kessel playing through multiple injuries during a season in which they can’t possibly hope to compete for anything?
It’s enough to make you
I do, however like how Bernier seems to be getting the majority of the games. I like that a lot. Now, if we could just trade Lupul during this hot streak, find a new home for Bozak, Clarkson, Robidas, Polak and Reimer, then get Kadri and Holland in the proper situations and ice time, we’d be laughing.
Because trust me, this team ain’t making the Playoffs. Here’s why:
1. They currently sit 11th in the NHL with a 20% Power-Play, but are only percentage points and a few quick goals out of third place. Despite this killer PP, the team is only currently in a tie for eighth place.
2. They sit tenth in the NHL on the PK, but are only a few consecutive kills from a top 3 or 5 position. Despite this excellent PK, the Leafs currently sit in a tie for eighth place. (With a Boston team currently missing two of the best players in the world).
3. Tyler Bozak is riding high special teams success to an unprecedented close-to-a-point-per-game and is two good games away from being in the top ten in NHL scoring. Yet, despite this, the team sits in a tie for eighth place.
4. The team is out-shot nearly every game. They are 26th in shots against per game and only marginally outside of 28th.
5. The Leafs have an over .500 winning % when they are out-shot. This is bad because it is impossible to sustain. Of the teams ahead of Toronto in this category, only 2 are out-shot regularly, Montreal and Calgary, two teams also bound to drop in the standings despite hot starts.
6. The Leafs have a winning percentage of 100% when leading after two periods. While that seems good, it too, is impossible to sustain. The Leafs will blow some leads.
7. The Leafs have been relatively injury free, with the exception of Lupul and some supporting cast members. Injuries will happen.
8. You can’t win in the NHL when you do not see fit to dress a legit top line centre of #1 D-man. It’s impossible. The Leafs have neither.
The Leafs are screwed. Despite some better-than-could-have-been-expected results, this is not a good hockey team. It is not a better hockey team than the one that missed the Playoffs last year or the one that blew it in game seven the year before. It’s the same damn team.
The Leafs currently are riding hot goaltending, crazy-good special teams, a lack of injuries and a career year from a mediocre player to eight place in the standings. All of these things are bound to drop off.
Also, they haven’t blown a single lead, they have a positive winning percentage when they are out-shot, and they are out-shot virtually every game. Yes, they are winning, which teams tend to do when the get lucky, but these things can’t be sustained and even though they are happening, the team remains in eighth place.
My point is that the Leafs are coming up aces everywhere and it’s still only enough to get them just inside the playoff picture. So, when things start to be less rosy, which is a certainty, how can they be expected to make the Playoffs?
The answer is simple: They won’t.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.