One week from today the Toronto Maple Leafs will take to the ice in the hopes of ending the longest current playoff drought in the NHL. Despite some front-office shuffling earlier this week, a lack of off-season moves has left Leaf Nation with very little optimism that this will be the year they will finally get to cheer on their team in the postseason. In an attempt to bolster the spirits of pessimistic Leaf fans, I have come up with 3 legitimate reasons why Toronto has a better chance than one might think in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.
Reason #2 – Quick start will be critical
It goes without saying that in a compressed season, each game becomes more meaningful and every point could make or break a team’s chances. The first 10-20 games of the shortened season will carry tremendous weight in determining the overall playoff picture. Luckily for Leafs fans, starting the season well was one of the few bright spots last year in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
With much of the same roster as last season intact (for better or for worse), there is no reason why Toronto can’t race out of the gate like they did in the 2011-12 season. 5 games into the season the Leafs were 4-0-1, 10 games in they were 7-2-1 and despite starting to fade they were still going strong 20 games in with an impressive record of 11-7-2. Had they kept that pace they would’ve been assured a postseason spot. However, by the mid-season mark the wheels had started to come off sparking a debilitating collapse resulting in yet another failed season. There’s hope that this year will be different.
Over the last 5 seasons, Eastern Conference opponents have needed an average of 92 points to make the playoffs which works out to 1.12 points per game. In a lockout shortened season of 50 games it should take 56 points, for a 48 game campaign it should take 54 points. Should the Leafs be able to match their 11-7-2 record through 20 games they would be nearly halfway to the required total with less than half the games played. Toronto started fast last year so there’s no reason why they can’t do the same in the 2012-13 campaign.
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