Have you seen the Eastern Conference standings recently? It’s completely fucked; the Leafs are a better-than-average team that was underperforming and they are logjammed out of a playoff spot. Good needs to be exceptional from here on out.
For those that haven’t checked, the Leafs sit tenth in the Eastern Conference with 34 points. That places them one point behind Florida (Panthers also have two games in hand) and two points behind Buffalo for the non-Boston reserved spot (46 points) atop the Atlantic Division.
If the Leafs fail to make it in the divisional race, you can pretty much forget about a wildcard berth. The Metropolitan Division is so competitive and so good that Pittsburg and Carolina have the 34 point Leafs (and Habs) on the outside looking in with their lofty 38 and 39 point totals.
This means the Leafs can’t just be good in order to get into the playoffs. As mentioned, the division is still very much up for grabs, however good needs to be exceptional in order for them to take the reins on a postseason position, and no, it isn’t too early in the season to be talking about this.
There are two really important aspects to the recent new-look Leafs that should help them along. Firstly, the Buds are 6-4 under Sheldon Keefe. This isn’t great, however, it is a bit of progression from the final ten games of the Babcock era where the team put up a 3-7 record including a six-game losing streak.
The other aspect that is going to help pull the Leafs to the next level of competitive play is that both the Matthews line and Tavares line are producing simultaneously, two games in a row. Against St. Louis, Matthews netted twice while Pontus Aberg and Nylander both tallied assists, and Mitch Marner had two assists to go along with two Zach Hyman goals. Again, against Vancouver Matthews scored his 19th of the season, as Tavares grabbed two goals, Hyman one, and Marner two assists again.
If the Leafs do build on their current two-win streak and get some momentum going their way, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that they are a team that can step up and make the playoffs. It would actually be a welcomed change, seeing as last season they started strong and faded, eventually limping into the playoffs.
Time for the big guns to keep it on the tracks and earn those big juicy contracts! The bottom-six has held up their end of the bargain so far this season and has helped keep the Leafs treading water during this highly intense season thus far, hopefully, the Keefe change and current momentum can be accelerants to the Leafs season.