By Stan Smith
Really, it seems like there’s no way the Toronto Maple Leafs will miss the 2022-23 Stanley Cup playoffs after their 15-game consecutive point-scoring streak. It would take a huge collapse for that to happen, and I just don’t think this team has that in them.
The Maple Leafs’ 15-Game Point Streat Was Huge for Their Season
The fifteen-game point streak that ended in New York on Thursday night with a 3-1 loss to the Rangers shot the Toronto Maple Leafs up the NHL standings. The Maple Leafs earned an amazing 27 points out of a possible 30 in that streak. That’s a .900 winning percentage.
As of Saturday morning, the Maple Leafs sat in second place in the Atlantic Division four points behind the first-place Boston Bruins and five points up on the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Boston and Tampa have two games in hand over the Maple Leafs. With over 50 games yet to be played, who finishes where in the top three is still anyone’s guess.
It Would Be Hard for the Maple Leafs to Miss the Playoffs Now
But, in regard to making the playoffs, one thing the fifteen-game streak did was solidify a post-season spot for the Maple Leafs. Saturday morning before they played the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs were ten points up on the Capitals. Washington is the closest team presently outside of a playoff position, 44 points to 34 points, and the Maple Leafs had a game in hand.
The Detroit Red Wings and the Florida Panthers were both two points back of Washington with 32. The Red Wings have played two games less than the Maple Leafs while the Panthers have played the same number of games.
Today’s Maple Leafs are not the “Fall off the Cliff” team that they were under Brian Burke and Dave Nonis. This version of the Maple Leafs is too good a team to go on a ten-game losing streak. If they win just five more games than they lose in the remainder of the season it would give them 57 points in that span, for a total of 101 points.
Three Reasons This Team Won’t Crack
Reason #1: The Team’s Two Goalies Are Too Good
What was once the biggest worry going into the regular season has proven to be one of the team’s strengths. Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov have proven to be strong, capable, reliable, and determined goalies. They have the skill to win games by themselves if they had to. They don’t have to, however.
Reason #2: The Team Defense Has Been Stellar
When the top three defensemen went down for extended periods of time, it seemed as if this team was in trouble. But, the team’s total team defence stepped up – both forwards and defensemen together – to carry the game. The Maple Leafs’ system worked; and, while there might have been a fall-off without Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and TJ Brodie out, no one noticed. Mark Giordano stepped up; Colin Timmins showed up; and, Brodie is back. Things are looking good.
Reason #3: The Maple Leafs Stars Are Shining
William Nylander leads the team with 18 goals, two ahead of Auston Matthews. Mitch Marner had a 23-game point-scoring streak. John Tavares is having his best season in a long time. This team has star power. And they’ll provide enough wins the rest of the way for the team to make the playoffs.