The playoffs are coming, but so too are the Florida Panthers. Just one point off the Leafs pace, Florida is surging but the Leafs can take solace from one aspect of their bad California road trip.
One point from three games from teams out of the playoff race in a weak Western Conference (if you’re not St. Louis or Colorado). Not a great return for the Leafs, but despite the genuinely poor effort from the team offensively, there is still an aspect of their game that can be built upon as a positive.
In these three games, the Leafs only allowed eight goals over that stretch, keeping pace with their GAA from the previous three games. This is an extremely small stat and one many may not see value in, but for a team that is so heavily criticized for their defensive play, reliability and predictability is something that cannot be overstated enough.
Simply put, when you know what you’re going to get from your defence, it’s easier to game plan around it.
This stat also suggests the goaltending has stabilized for the team. Frederick Andersen and Jack Campbell were fine, if not great, over the Cali road trip which is a net positive (no pun intended) based on Andersen’s play recently. If he’s got his groove back and Campbell is still firing on all cylinders as he showed in Anaheim, the Leafs are in a good place.
The issue was the offence. Unusually quiet over the West Coast swing, the Leafs young guns put up just four goals against sub-par teams. Please note, this is UNUSUAL. The Leafs are not a team that is hamstrung offensively. They score goals, they produce offence, it’s their identity to attack with speed and efficiency.
With the Leafs averaging 2.66 GAA in their last eight games, if the Leafs get back to their usual, standard offensive production of 3.42 goals per game, they will make the playoffs comfortably. They are third in goals for, have Morgan Rielly on his way back, Ilya Mikheyev returning, and Jake Muzzin on the mend. Things, despite a bad trip to California, are still fine in Leaf land. Forget about Florida until we play them, the Leafs are the masters of their own destiny.