In normal times, it would be easy to dismiss the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent struggles.
After all, the team is coming off a tough, five-game road trip that took them through California.
The Leafs were able to open up the road trip with a big win over the Anaheim Ducks, but lost to the San Jose Sharks the following night. Toronto responded with another big win two days later – this time against the Los Angeles Kings.
At this point, things looked pretty good for the Leafs. They beat two of the top teams in the league but fell to another top team under acceptable/understandable circumstances: Toronto faced the Sharks in the second of back-to-back games. Normally, this would be enough to excuse their lackluster effort.
However, it’s on the tail end of the road trip that the Leafs really got themselves into trouble and why there’s really no valid excuse for the team’s poor showing on the trip. Critically, they lost consecutive games to the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings – two teams that the Leafs should be able to beat and two teams that are nipping at the Leafs’ heels in the playoff race.
Toronto had an opportunity to determine its own fate here, forcing greater distance between themselves, Washington and Detroit in the Eastern Conference standings. Instead, the Leafs saw their lead over the Capitals diminish to four points while their lead over Detroit has dropped to five points.
Adding to the situation, Detroit has two games on hand against Toronto, which means they actually have a better chance than Washington of catching the Leafs in the standings.
Once again, the Leafs could have avoided this entire situation by doing what they should have done in the first place: beat Washington and Detroit.
This is why the Leafs’ 6-2 blowout loss to the Sharks is ultimately unacceptable and why going 2-3-0 on their recent road trip is equally unacceptable. They simply don’t have the points to waste.
The Leafs have a chance to turn things around tonight when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Air Canada Centre.
A win tonight would see the Leafs jump over the Lightning in the standings, but another loss could put them dangerously close to falling even with the Capitals and the Red Wings.
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