The Toronto Maple Leafs had two very, very polarizing evenings this weekend. On Tuesday, they were absolutely dump-trucked by the Florida Panthers, and the rest of the league piled up on them to deliver a massive blow to their playoff odds. On Thursday, the reverse happened; they blew out the Tampa Bay Lightning and got help from the others, literally reversing every issue they had just fallen into.
It was the worst night of the year, followed by the best. But which is closer to the team we know? Our roundtable tries to figure that out.
I’m going to say both, because honestly, who are the real Leafs? We’re 13 games out from the end of the regular season and I don’t think there’s been something known as a “typical Leafs game” this season, save for perhaps a blown third period lead.
Looking purely at shot totals from the two nights, on one night the Leafs were outshot by just two, while the other they were outshot by 12. Of course, they won the game by 5 when they were shelled (albeit inflated by a third period proverbial “parking the bus) and got destroyed in the close game. If you watched the two games but missed every goal and didn’t know the score, could you honestly pick out which team performed better? The two games were both odd statistical anomalies in some sense and the Leafs were neither that dominant or that dominated on either night.
If there’s one thing we can say about the Buds, it’s that they’re unpredictable. Their style of high event hockey and bad defense is bound to create some high scoring games, and it just happened they were on opposite ends of the spectrum back to back. Not great for heart rates and stress levels, but at least it makes for some exciting hockey.
I honestly don’t think there’s 1 real answer to this question. I’m going to use an Ebenezer Scrooge reference here to make sense of my thinking. The game against Florida was embarrassing – there’s no question about it. The game reflected a glimpse into the past for myself and many others. It was almost as if I was watching the Leafs from last season, as that type of game was something you came to expect from that team. The Florida game was the Leafs’ “ghost of Christmas past”. Last night’s game reflected what we all want to see from the Leafs, and what we will begin to expect moving forward with this team. The Tampa game was the Leafs’ “ghost of Christmas future”.
In terms of the present day, I’m not really sure what to call the Leafs right now. The ghost of Christmas present is more of a question mark to me, though some factors are obvious: they are a young team with a lot of talent up front. Their goaltending is average. Their defence could use some work.
Here is my one piece of advice to the Leafs moving forward: “Live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within you. Do not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
The right answer is to say that the truth is somewhere in between those two games. The Leafs probably weren’t 5 goals better than the Lightning last night, and it’s obvious that this team hasn’t been bad enough to deserve losing to the Panthers by 5 either. If I have to pick one, it’s the win over Tampa absolutely, because they deserved that win. But really they also deserved the loss that was handed to them in Florida. So it’d somewhere in the middle.
A lot of “in the middle” answers here this week. It’s hard to blame everybody considering the two extremes we witnessed. I’m going to go with the win over Tampa as the game that’s more reflective of what this team is. Not that they’ll routinely be blowing out competitive rosters, but we saw a full 60 minutes of effort, a lot of scoring from places where the compete hasn’t matched the results, and a game that was more in tune with what we’ve seen in most wins or losses this year.
Tuesday, on the other hand, involved a team legitimately looked, both in result and with your eyes, to have forgotten they were going to play tonight. There’s a difference between a very good night on the scope of this team, and a night that would be put in the worst-of pile last year or even in the Carlyle era. I can’t see the Leafs having another Florida game. I could see them having a couple more Tampa games, though probably not with regularity. If they are able to can that performance into a bottle and bring it every night, though, the rest of the season is going to be fun.