January 31 2012 12:09PM
That sure is a nice scoreboard.
There are 32 games left in the Leafs’ season. They sit 9th in the Eastern Conference, tied with the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers at 55 points. (Though the Leafs have more Regulation and Overtime wins than both teams so if they had all played equal games and remained tied, they’d be in) In order for the Leafs to make the playoffs they are going to need to win more games than they lose. Shocking stuff I know. If they are going to do that, they need the following four things.
The Leafs are 11-11-1 on the road this season. While respectable, that’s just not good enough. 18 of their next 32 games are on the road. If they are going to make the playoffs they’ll need to be better than .500. Games in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Florida, and Tampa stand out as must-wins. They also have two games in both Ottawa and Montreal; they need to pick up at least 6 of 8 points there. If they make the playoffs they’ll be playing 4 of 7 games on the road. If they have any hopes of winning a playoff series the Leafs need to get better away from home.
To The Line and Out
Despite not allowing a PP goal against so far in 2012, the Leafs still have the worst PK in the NHL. While they are likely to finish in the bottom half at the end of the season, the Leafs need to continue taking fewer penalties, and kill off the ones they do take with greater frequency. The last month has been a huge improvement, but they need to sustain it. It won’t stay perfect forever, but making sure it doesn’t return to December levels is extremely important.
Optimus Reim's Return
If Jonas Gustavsson is still the Leafs number one goalie on March 1st we’re in trouble. While the Monster’s recent resurgence has kept the Leafs’ in the playoff hunt, the net is James Reimer’s to seize. Gustavsson’s season SV% in only .910, this is about league average. Reimer’s is .899 but was dragged down by a terrible PK that has been much improved since December. If this team is going to make the playoffs James Reimer has to be its #1 Goalie.
Knock Joey Crabb out of the Top-Five in Goal Scoring
Pop Quiz: Who are the Top Five Leafs in goals this season? Kessel, Lupul, Grabovski, MacArthur, and JOEY CRABB. This does not bode well. Only four Leafs have goals in the double digits this season. Bozak, Kadri, Connolly, and Kulemin need to pick up the slack. We talk about how much Kulemin has struggled this season, but he’s only 3 goals from being in the top five. Kessel and Lupul cannot carry this team forever. Grabovski had a very productive January, someone else needs to step up in February.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; the final playoff spots in the East will not be clinched until the last week of the season. The Leafs have 32 games standing between them and a playoff spot, giddyup.