Thanks to a 3-game winning streak, the Maple Leafs are back in a playoff spot heading into tonight’s battle against the Montreal Canadiens. The tie-breaking skills competition, better known as the shootout, is the only reason why Toronto is even in postseason contention at this point in the campaign.
Unlike a year ago where the Leafs couldn’t seem to buy a win in the shootout, for whatever reason, 2013-14 has made Toronto one of the best SO teams in the league. Partly due to more consistent goaltending from Bernier-Reimer, but largely due to near perfection from JVR and Lupul, Toronto no longer fears the breakaway competition for the extra point.
The Leafs have forced (or been forced into) a shootout on 13 occasions so far in the 2013-14 season. Toronto has emerged victorious in 9 of those contests, which is an impressive success rate of 69.2%. While the Leafs are to be congratulated for securing 9 of a possible 13 bonus points, their lack of regulation wins is becoming a frightening trend as the season rolls on.
Taking away Toronto’s 9 shootout wins and 4 shootout losses, they would have a regulation/OT record of 15-20-1 which is unimpressive to say the least. It’s no surprise that the Leafs have the worst goal differential of any team holding a playoff spot in the entire league at -13 and there’s even another 6 teams outside of a playoff position with a better GF/GA differential.
Unfortunately for the Leafs, there aren’t any shootouts in the playoffs so if they want to make the playoffs and have any chance of success, they’re going to need to find a way to put teams away in regulation. In their last 28 games (since November 21st), Toronto has only won 2 games by a margin of 2 goals or more. The Leafs will have a chance to reverse that trend tonight as they host the Montreal Canadiens at the ACC.
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