After 20 games this season, we still don’t know what to expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team has been consistently inconsistent through the first quarter of the season. On any given night, Leafs Nation is either planning the parade route, or pleading for a major overhaul of the team…including calling for the dismissal of head coach Randy Carlyle.
Over the last ten games, the Maple Leafs have scored wins against quality teams like Chicago, Boston and Tampa Bay. Start the parade plans. Over that same stretch, the Leafs suffered blowout and embarrassing losses to Buffalo and Nashville. Cue the “Fire Randy” chants.
With a record of 5-4-1 over the past ten, the Leafs are as streaky as ever. Through the first 20 games, the Toronto Maple Leafs are proving to be the living embodiment of mediocrity.
Take It By Ten Toronto – 20 games down, 22 points banked, 62 to go
We’ve reached the quarter point of the NHL season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are predictably where most prognosticators thought they would be. After 20 games the team has a record of 10-8-2, and still lack reliability and stability in their play from night-to-night.
Case and point, the 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Through the first two periods, the Maple Leafs matched Chicago stride for stride. Toronto kept pace with the Blackhawks in a variety of aspects, including goals scored and shots on net. But in the final stanza, the Maple Leafs reverted to a lackluster style of play. While Chicago turned up the pace and pressure, the Leafs scrambled to hang on. If it wasn’t for a brilliant performance from James Reimer, stopping all 26 shots in the third period, the Leafs could have very well lost that game.
The Leafs embarked on a mini two-game road trip, with stops in Arizona and Colorado. The consensus amongst Leafs Nation was that Toronto should skate to relatively easy wins against both the Coyotes and the Avalanche. But as any Leafs fan knows, nothing with this team comes easy. The Maple Leafs managed only a single point from a possible four. On the plus side, Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf would score his first (and to this point only) goal of the season in the loss to Arizona.
The next three games were anything but a certainty for the Maple Leafs, as they would faceoff against the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and their nemesis the Boston Bruins. While Leafs fans anticipated the worst, the team was surprisingly good over that three game stretch. They were particularly impressive on home ice against the Bruins. Toronto posted five straight goals, and three of the six goals came on the power play. The Leafs even managed to chase Tuukka Rask from the net, after he gave up three goals in the opening three-and-a-half minutes of the second period.
The Maple Leafs seemed to be rolling. Had this team finally turned a corner and found a style of play that would foster success and consistency? Talk amongst the fan base and the local media was that this team had exercised their demons after that Bruins win. But with a home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the horizon, there was an uneasy sense that the three-game win streak would be derailed.
Toronto played a much tougher game against Pittsburgh this time around, but a lack of production on the power play, a solid performance from backup Thomas Greiss, and two goals from Pascal Dupuis sunk the Maple Leafs.
“The Buds” had an opportunity for a bounce back the very next night in Buffalo, but “The Queen City” was anything but hospitable for the Leafs. An embarrassing blowout loss to Buffalo was in store, as the fell 6-2 to the Sabres. Life for the Leafs would get worse before it got better. A 9-2 loss on home ice to Nashville saw another lackluster performance, and another fan toss a jersey to the ice. In the matter of ten days, the Maple Leafs went from a three game win streak to a three game losing skid. Ups and downs; mediocrity at its finest.
Toronto salvaged a .500 record by skating to a pretty solid 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. But even with a win, there was controversy among Leafs Nation. The team opted to forgo the recent custom of saluting the crowd after a win. Can you blame the players though? It’s a pretty silly gesture to begin with, but when the fans opt to toss away the jersey that these athletes wear with so much pride, it’s pretty easy to understand why the players would send a subtle (and overblown) message to their fans.
20 games played, 22 points in the bank, 62 to play, on pace for 89 points.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
James van Reimsdyk
|5 G||6 A||11 PTS||-4||6 PIM||6 PP PTS||36 SOG||+4 GvA/TkA||20:32 TOI/g|
|5 G||5 A||10 PTS||-1||0 PIM||4 PP PTS||39 SOG||-3 GvA/TkA||
|Peter Holland||4 G||2 A||6 PTS||-3||2 PIM||15 Hits||44.2% faceoff||+2 GvA/TkA||
|0 G||2 A||2 PTS||-7||2 PIM||14 BkS||12 Hits||-3 GvA/TkA||19:25 TOI/g|
|Stephane Robidas||0 G||1 A||1 PTS||+3||8 PIM||18 BkS||23 Hits||+1 GvA/TkA||
*1st PERIOD STATS*
|6 GS||7 GA||3 GAIn first 2 MINS||68 SA||61 SVS||.897 SV%||3 W||2 L||
|Day-to-Day||Injured on Oct 18||High ankle sprain||AHL conditioning|
|Day-to-Day||Injured on Nov 22||
|Carter Ashton||Suspension(20 games)||Suspended on Nov 6||Eligible to return Dec 20|
Nicco Cardarelli writes about all things Toronto Maple Leafs for TheHockeyWriters.com. Nicco has PxP & Color commentary experience calling IIHF, Hockey Canada, OHL and CWHL games. Follow Nicco on Instagram and Twitter @BroBehindTheMic.