If the world was a fair and honest place, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be guaranteed a playoff spot.
After all, they’re the financial bloodline of the NHL and its main house of history. In other words, it simply makes sense to treat the best as the best.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. The Leafs are forced to fight for a playoff spot like every other team in the league. This includes a tough, five-game road trip beginning tonight.
The first half of the trip will take Toronto through California – a recent deathbed for hockey dreams – but finishes on a less difficult note as the Leafs visit Washington and Detroit before returning home on March 19 to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Representing the (dark) heart of the road trip, the California-based games will see the Leafs play the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings across four nights. (If the hockey gods are trying to punish the Leafs, they can consider it “Mission Accomplished”.)
In terms of points, the Leafs are in a fairly comfortable position right now. They have 76 points in 65 games, which is good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. However, I anticipate a dearth of new points over the coming week.
What are your thoughts on and expectations for the road trip? I’m sure Jonathan Bernier is excited to face his old team.
Although difficult, the Montreal Canadiens just completed a similar road trip. They were led to mixed results by backup Peter Budaj (regular starter Carey Price has been lost to injury for the moment), posting a 1-2-0 record against the three California teams.
A single point currently separates the Leafs and the Canadiens in the standings, and here the hope (and logic) is that hockey’s greatest team can do better than Montreal heading into California (it’s not even a real hockey market!).
I don’t expect a sweep in the sun, but it isn’t too much to expect three, may be even four points coming out of the first half of the road trip. After that, it should be smooth sailing to the playoffs – a place where the Leafs naturally belong.
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