Toronto Maple Leafs: Looking to survive the dreaded California road trip

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02: Tanner Pearson
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02: Tanner Pearson /

It is never an easy road trip for the Toronto Maple Leafs and it comes earlier this year as they make their way out west to California.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs going through a tough couple of games to finish their recent homestand, it does not get any easier with the dreaded trip to California up next.

In past years this was a part of the schedule that the Leafs hoped to survive especially when they played on back-to-back nights. This time around they begin the road trip at the shark tank against the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately for the Leafs, they have struggled against the Sharks losing 10 of their last 11 games against them.

Last season was better than past years as the Leafs lost the first meeting at home 3-2 after San Jose scored two goals in the third period. Similarly the Leafs lost the final matchup 3-1 again allowing the game to get away from them in the third. However, going into this game, both teams have a lot to prove.

San Jose sits an even 5-5 which has them sitting third last in the Pacific division while the Leafs are third in the Atlantic division. The Leafs have struggled to tighten things up defensively with 40 goals against which has them ranked 25th. On the flip side, San Jose is fourth in goals against allowing only 26 but have scored only 27 goals while the Leafs share the league lead with 45.

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The pressure on the Leafs will be to get back on track and have a strong performance with Patrick Marleau making his return to San Jose since leaving as a free agent. It will be an emotional night but one that Mike Babcock needs to have his team ready for and he wants his team to win it for Marleau.

After San Jose, the Leafs travel for a rematch with the LA Kings after a 3-2 win at home. It was an impressive effort from Frederik Andersen that gave the Leafs a chance to hang in with the top team in the league. It will not be easier a second time around as the Kings will look to take advantage with line matching.

The Leafs will then have to work on back-to-back nights as they finish the three game California trip against the Anaheim Ducks. Last year, Toronto lost 5-2 against the Ducks and 3-2 at home later in the season. Anaheim is dealing with injuries to their blueline with Cam Fowler, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Vatanen out and Ryan Kesler still recovering from surgery. However, the Ducks have managed to overcome that as they are 6-4-1 this season.

If the Leafs are able to come away with three points on this road trip it would be an improvement over past years where they would be happy with a win over the three-game span.

It helps that Josh Leivo is capable of stepping in with James van Riemsdyk and Matt Martin recovering from injuries but both are expected to play. It will also be interesting to see how the goalie rotation goes considering the struggles Andersen has been dealing with.

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The last thing the Leafs want to happen is a tough stretch where they are outplayed and lose the confidence that was gained at the start of the season. However, that is something that can easily happen on this road trip and hopefully Toronto is able to change that trend.