Since firing Head Coach Mike Babcock on November 20th after a 9-10-4 start, as well as a five game losing streak, Toronto appeared to turn things around under Sheldon Keefe going 15-5-1 in their next 21 games.
However, now 26 games since the Babcock firing, the Maple Leafs sit three points outside of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference as they have gone 1-2-2 in their last five games with losses to Winnipeg, Florida, Calgary, and Chicago.
Toronto now has an overall record of 25-17-7, is in fourth place in the Atlantic, and fifteenth overall in the NHL.
Once again, it is the same narrative with the Maple Leafs that has caused them three consecutive first round exits in the playoffs; incredible offense, lackluster defense.
With the fourth most goals for with 176, Toronto has struggled tremendously on defense as they rank 28th in the league with 165 goals against on the season.
It’s a similar situation on special teams, and shots on goal, sixth ranked power play, and 25th ranked penalty kill, fourth most shots for per game, while being tied for fifth most shots against per game.
Goaltender Frederik Andersen is once again being hung out to dry, although has still played excellent with a save percentage of.909, a goals against average of 2.89, along with a shutout.
With an offense consisting of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares (each with at least 40 points on the season), there’s no reason Toronto can’t be held accountable for producing at least three goals per game; especially when those four are earning a combined salary upwards of 40-million dollars.
Unless the Maple Leafs can find a way to take a dive and improve their defense once again at the trade deadline, as well as overall significantly improve their defensive play, a Wild Card spot is all this team will be looking at come April with Boston, Tampa Bay, and Florida all making a stand with 70, 62, and 61 points respectively. Florida is currently on a six game winning streak.
When Andersen, Marner, and Matthews return from the All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, Toronto will travel to Nashville to take on the Predators Monday January 27th at 8:00 PM.
Photo Source: http://www.theathletic.com
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