We’re past the midway point in this shortened NHL season and the Toronto Maple Leafs are still very much in the playoff mix sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Strong goaltending and a vast improvement in their penalty kill have been the key components of their turnaround. While a postseason berth alone will no doubt be celebrated by playoff-starved Leaf fans, hopes of a long postseason run may be unrealistic.
26 games into the season and Toronto has a record of 15 wins, 10 losses, and 1 shootout loss. The Leafs have managed to make the most of their opportunities against the conference’s bottom feeders but they’ve struggled against the playoff-contending teams in the East. Toronto’s record against the other 7 teams currently in a postseason position in the Eastern Conference (Montreal, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Boston, Ottawa, New York Rangers, New Jersey) is a lackluster 6 wins, 7 losses, and 1 shootout loss. They have yet to record a single point against Carolina, Boston or New York in 5 total games. If the season were to end today, the Leafs would play the Bruins in a best-of-seven series – a team they have lost 8 straight games to dating back to last season!
With 12 of their remaining 22 games against these 7 teams, it will be up to the Leafs to improve their record against the contenders. If Toronto can’t turn things around against the top teams in the East they will quickly find themselves slipping out of the playoff race.
Toronto heads to Winnipeg on to take on the Jets on Tuesday night at 8 PM.
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