The Toronto Maple Leafs are gearing up for the playoffs. In fact, the team has just a few games left in the regular season. As they face down these few remaining games, what key points should be considered?
General Areas of Current Consideration
In this post, I’ll examine six recent but critical factors that could impact the team’s performance as they head toward the playoffs. These factors include the status and depth of the team’s goaltenders and what their recent loss against the Detroit Red Wings might mean. In addition, is there a potential problem with how Michael Bunting is playing? Is he committing penalties that could hurt the team in critical moments?
Specifically, the Maple Leafs are making a number of choices as they head toward their upcoming playoff run. From what I’m seeing, the team is focusing on staying healthy and keeping their game sharp. As a result, head coach Sheldon Keefe decided to give some opportunities to players further down the lineup to pick up some game action.
Six Specific Considerations for the Maple Leafs Moving Forward
The following six key points have emerged as of last night’s Detroit Red Wings’ game. As I look at these considerations, I’ll share whether I believe they are a concern or a positive.
Consideration One: Matt Murray’s Injury (Concern)
Matt Murray left the game in the first period due to a collision, and he was tested for a concussion. The results of the test are unknown, and there is no update on his status or diagnosis. Should this injury be a concern for the team?
Consideration Two: The Organization’s Confidence in It’s Goalies (Positive)
The Maple Leafs have confidence in their goaltending depth, even without Matt Murray, and have Joseph Wall and Erik Kallgren as backup options. Woll particularly has played well in his brief NHL career.
Consideration Three: The Red Wings Game Was a One-Off (So-So)
Although the Maple Leafs lost to the Red Wings on Sunday, they rested some of their top players during the game and were not playing at full strength. The game should probably not cause concern in the bigger picture.
Consideration Four: The Focus on the Last Few Regular Season Games Is Player Health (Concern)
Right now, the team is focused on staying healthy and keeping their game sharp. The Maple Leafs are officially locked into a series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They also hold a comfortable cushion for home-ice advantage. Their play might change if things get tighter.
Consideration Five: The Maple Leafs Are Giving Depth Players Ice Time (Positive)
Given the context the team is finding its way in, the coaching staff is giving more ice time to players further down the lineup. In fact, the Maple Leafs have used 45 skaters, more than any team in the league. They will continue to do so as the season winds down.
Consideration Six: The Michael Bunting Penalty Situation (Concern)
The Michael Bunting situation is something to keep an eye on. Head coach Sheldon Keefe is worried about Bunting’s reputation. If he’s being assessed penalties that he doesn’t deserve, could that cost the team when it really matters?
The Bottom Line: Summarizing Maple Leafs Position
As it currently stands, the Maple Leafs have a strong record. They have already secured a playoff spot with a comfortable cushion for home-ice advantage. Those two signs are positive.
However, injuries can always occur, and the team is playing its last few regular season games with that in mind. Specifically, Matt Murray’s status is uncertain after his collision during the Red Wings’ game. Is that a cause for concern? Perhaps.
As far as the team’s goalie situation, the team has confidence in its goaltending depth. Still, not having Murray available for an extended period of time could be an issue.
Finally, there is a potential concern about Bunting’s reputation for getting penalties he might not deserve.
Overall, while there are factors that could cause concern for Maple Leafs fans, the team’s depth and strong record suggest that they are in a good position heading into the playoffs.