It comes as no surprise anymore that the Maple Leafs are capable of these late season success stories; the oneâ€™s where they basically go on a ridiculous wins to loss ratio and play damn well near 0.700 hockey. And while this can make for exciting hockey, it leaves many shaking their heads at their televisions, laughing at the sheer dominance the club proved over an elite team.
Some people will say â€œyou canâ€™t get upset at the way they are playing, they are a professional team. They are always playing for a win and will not try to lose.â€ Thatâ€™s understandable, but we absolutely have the right to be upset. Not necessarily at how they are playing now, but how they faired in the months of October, November and December.
Letâ€™s take a quick look at the numbers:
8 of their last 12 wins have all come against teams who sit comfortably in a post-season position. The Leafs are currently 8 points out of a playoff position with 8 games to go and 3 teams ahead of them vying for that final seed. The Leafs are 1 loss away from mathematically being eliminated from the playoffs. The average â€œpoint bracketâ€ for successfully reaching the post-season is 91 for the 8th seed in both the Eastern and Western Conference. With 8 games remaining, the Leafs would have to win every game from here on out.
While I sit back and now say â€œwell, I have no control over where they finish anymore, but they really have to keep losingâ€ it made me think back to specific comments in the early months of the season. Comments like â€œyou wins some, you lose someâ€; â€œwe just had a bad nightâ€; â€œthese are problems we have to fixâ€, and then I look at where they currently are. These late season runs have become a sham as to how the team truly is â€“ lazy.
We can all remember games at the start of the year when the Leafs would piss away a 2, 3, even 4 goal lead and fail to register a point in a game of which they were in full command. Those games they gave up late goals to go to overtime only to lose. Those â€œwe just had a bad nightâ€ games, where Ron Wilson would come out and publicly discuss the teamâ€™s situation while everyone would be free to say they arenâ€™t a good team, so why expect a win.
It brings us to today, watching the Leafs continue to play pressure-free hockey and register points in games they have no business winning, but still they show up, chug away and slowly, but surely, cut down the opposition until theyâ€™re sending home big goals at the right times. Those early season antics are showing, more than every, that the Leafs gave up their post-season chances, for the fourth consecutive year, in October and November and not in February and March.
You turn some of those overtime losses into a win, you give the team a wakeup call and holding those 2, 3 and 4 goal leads, and all of a sudden the surging Leafs are looking more legitimate point-wise than they are talent-wise. This team is much stronger than they let on, but once again, their lazy plays in the start of the seasons are what causes the most damage at the end. Like the butterfly who flaps his wings and causes a hurricane.
The Leafs are, and always have been, their own worst enemy in these situations. Itâ€™s why these late season runs are of the most frustrating times to watch this team. On February 12th, I wrote an article here called Leafs/Lightning and Lucky Number. In it, I explained the Leafs would have to win 21 of their remaining 27 games. The lucky number was 7, or 14 points. If the Leafs lost 14 points in that time frame, they would be knocked out of the playoffs.
Since then, the Leafs have given up 13 points. Since February 12th, the Leafs have posted a record of 11-5-3. If the Leafs lose one more game in regulation, my theory will stand correctly, and as noted above, the Leafs must win all of their remaining games to make the post-season.
I did not bring this back up to reinforce how correct I was near the beginning of February, I brought this back up to really shed some light on this season for the Leafs. If they continue to play as good as they have been lately, theyâ€™ll finish the remaining 8 games with around a 5-3-1 record. Putting themselves just 7 points out of a playoff position. It will also keep them around 9th overall for a draft pick.
It puts those losses in the early parts of the year into perspective. While some may say â€œthose games donâ€™t really affect the yearâ€, they are sadly mistaken. It is those games that mean the most to the Leafs on a yearly basis, and once again, their poor efforts at the start have cost them in the end; in making the playoffs and in drafting lower.
Micheal A. Aldred