The Toronto Maple Leafs finished the dreaded West Coast road trip in which they had to play the likes of the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. The Leafs finished this road trip with an 0-2-1 record, claiming just one point in the three games out West at a crucial point in the season.
The Leafs now have a 28-22-14 record and have currently fallen out of a playoff spot. So what does this mean for the rest of Maple Leafs season? It means they are currently one point out of a wild card spot, and four points out of third place in the Atlantic Division with 18 games left in the season.
What Rest of Toronto Maple Leafs Season Holds
Mike Babcock, seems to be confident with his lineup as there were no line changes at their practice back in Toronto on Sunday.
Doesn’t look like Leafs are altering much, at least for practice. Fourth line is Martin, Boyle and Soshnikov, leaving Fehr andd Leivo out.
— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) March 5, 2017
Although the Leafs have been in somewhat of a slump: 3-4-3 in their last 10 – there have been some positives throughout this late-season stretch. Frederik Andersen seems to be returning to the goalie he was in November and December posting a save percentage above .940% in three of his last five starts. If the Leafs want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need Andersen to be strong for the rest of the season.
Auston Matthews has been and will continue to be a positive for the Leafs going forward. Matthews is sitting fourth in goal scoring in the NHL with 31 goals, including eight goals in the month of February. He also added eight assists for a very solid 16 points in 14 games. Although he and the other rookies have never been in this exhausting of a schedule in their lives, he will need to contribute consistently throughout the last 18 games to help the Leafs get into the playoffs.
The one big negative Toronto has right now is the schedule. Their final 18 games will be played in just 34 days with three sets of back-to-back games. The first being a back-to-back against the Columbus Columbus and the New Jersey Devils, the next being against the Buffalo Sabres and the Washington Capitals, and they close out the season facing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus on the 8th and 9th of April. The Leafs are no strangers to this scenario having played 15 of their 18 back-to-backs already. But they have not fared too well in those games losing 10 of the 15 games on the second half of those sets this season. They will need to pick up their play in these games in hopes of grabbing one of the last available spots in the playoffs.
The peculiar case of James van Riemsdyk is one negative that has been looming around the Leafs for quite some time now. No one knows why he isn’t scoring, but it could be attributed to be one of the main reasons why the Leafs haven’t been winning many games lately. Once on a 30-goal pace this season, van Riemsdyk is still sitting at 19 goals, with his last one coming on February 4th. The Leafs have now played 14 games since that game and in that span, van Riemsdyk has only put up five assists. Being the offensive catalyst that everyone knows he can be, van Riemsdyk needs to find his game in order to help Toronto win some games down the stretch.
The Potential Outcome
Toronto is still in a very good spot. One point out of the playoffs with 18 games left in a year that many thought they would be the same old Toronto Maple Leafs. Although they’re going through a slump right now, they don’t seem to be too worried about it.
"No one's panicking": Veteran Leafs confident current "lull" won't turn into another collapse https://t.co/b3kkweQzbz (vid)
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 5, 2017
Toronto still has great possession numbers with their Corsi-for per 60 minutes (CF60) ranking second in the league only behind Boston at 61.36. They also sit third in the league in scoring chances per 60 minutes (SF60) with 31.98 SF60. They have managed to keep these numbers up around the top of the league throughout this slump as well as keeping their power play at number one at 22.9%. With a little more consistency from some of the veterans, and steady goaltending from Andersen, the Leafs still have a very good chance at making the playoffs, and potentially winning a round. Buckle up Leafs fans, these last 18 games are going to be something.