While many other Canadian-based teams are suffering through difficult seasons, the Toronto Maple Leafs – despite the ire and angst of its fan base – are thriving and prospering. Even Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that, at the season’s halfway point, “I’m excited with where we’re at and what we’ve done here. We’re playing .700 hockey with lots of room to grow.”
In his article late yesterday, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reviewed the Maple Leafs season and labeled this team “consistent.”
The Beginning of a Great Season Started with a Humbling Loss
Fox noted that, after a humbling 7-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 23, the Maple Leafs have been consistently elite. The team hasn’t lost two games in a row in regulation since October 27. Since that date, they’re either at or near the top in all major NHL categories. The team is legit. It’s a contender to win the Atlantic Division, which is arguably the strongest in the NHL.
Key Maple Leafs’ Statistics and The Team’s NHL Placement
Fox’s article pointed out some of these key statistics. They include:
Their Record is 29-10-3 (which is third in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the NHL)
The team’s goals-per-game average is 3.6 (which is fourth in the NHL)
The Maple Leafs’ goals-against-per-game is 2.64 (which is sixth in the NHL)
Their power-play percentage is 30.5% (which is first in the NHL)
Their penalty kill percentage is 84.3% (which is fourth in the NHL)
The Maple Leafs Have Jumped in the Atlantic Division Standings
The Maple Leafs have won five in a row. Before the team played its last four games, it was 10 points behind the Florida Panthers and eight points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the team also had played five fewer games than either of the two Florida-based teams. Speaking of other Atlantic Division rivals, before the Maple Leafs last four games, they were ahead of the Boston Bruins but only by three points.
After winning five games in a row, the team’s placement in the Atlantic Division is much improved. In fact, should the Maple Leafs win the five games they now have in hand, they’d leapfrog right into first place.
Currently, the team is eight points behind Florida and still has five games in hand. However, the Maple Leafs have drawn to within five points of the Lightning and they still have four games in hand. Even better for fans, the team has increased its margin to six points over the Bruins and they retain a game in hand.
Games in Hand Are Only Good If You Can Win Them
Games-in-hand are only valuable if you can win them, but who’s betting against the iteration of the Maple Leafs’ team? The team has elite forwards, solid goaltending, a strong team defense, good coaching, and they seem to like each other and pull for each other.
That’s obvious on the bench when newcomers like Michael Bunting register his first Maple Leafs’ hat trick or Petr Mrazek relieves starting goalie Jack Campbell and shuts the door on the opponent until his team pulls out a comeback win.
The is a solid team, and – frustration with past failures aside – there’s no reason to believe the postseason won’t be good for them. That is if they play up to their abilities. The first half of the 2021-22 regular season has shown they have the abilities.
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