Thanks to a 4-game losing streak, the Maple Leafs find themselves out of a playoff position for the first time this season. After being out-shot by a margin of 21-7 over the past four games, Toronto has slipped down to 10th place in the Eastern Conference. With Leafs Nation up in arms and calling for Coach Randy Carlyle’s head, here’s a look at 3 reasons to be optimistic despite Toronto’s current predicament.
1) Dave Bolland will return – While there is still no timetable for a return from the left-ankle injury Bolland sustained back on November 2nd, there is every indication he will be rejoining the team at some point in the coming weeks. Bolland isn’t a top scoring forward in the NHL by any means but there is no denying the Maple Leafs are a much better team with him than without him. Before Bolland went down in the November 2nd game, the Maple Leafs were rolling with a 10-4 record. Since Bolland’s injury, Toronto is a disappointing 11-16-5. Bolland was enjoying a tremendous start to his first campaign as a Maple Leaf with 10 points through 15 games along with a +4 rating. The Leafs will definitely improve with the Stanley Cup winner back in their line-up.
2) Captain Phaneuf is having his best defensive season as a Leaf – Phaneuf was brought to Toronto in the hopes he’d be able to electrify the Leafs’ blue line with the sort of offensive numbers he put up in the 60-point campaign with Calgary in 2007-08. While Dion has never been able to match that pace, he’s steadily averaged just under a ½ point per game while wearing the blue and white. Phaneuf has long been criticized for his defensive blunders and had a -18 rating as a Leaf heading into this season. With a commitment to strong defensive play, Phaneuf is quietly on-pace for his best defensive season as a Leaf with a solid +10 rating despite constantly playing against the opposition’s top lines night in and night out. He’s even got a chance to outdo his career best +12 rating from 2007-08 with Calgary.
3) Power play remains among league’s best – Toronto continues to struggle when shorthanded and their shot differential is a huge concern yet despite these issues, the Maple Leaf power play continues to be ranked near the top of the league. Toronto’s power play is performing at a success rate of 21.7%, which is good for 5th in the NHL. This is a healthy improvement from their middling 14th-ranked 18.7% power play from last season. If Toronto’s power play can continue to find success, it will help to mitigate some of the issues they’re having in other areas of the game.
Toronto returns to action tomorrow night as they host the New Jersey Devils at the ACC. Puck drop is at 7 PM.
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