Toronto Maple Leafs: Latest slump should provide necessary wake-up call

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Frederik Andersen
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Frederik Andersen /

Losing four straight games is not something the Toronto Maple Leafs want to go through, but their small break gives them a chance to regroup.

Usually, teams cannot wait for a four-day break between games like the Toronto Maple Leafs are on right now. The only problem is that a four-game losing streak probably has Mike Babcock ready to push his team harder in practice then they have been lately.

Two straight games in which the team has allowed five goals is not something that can easily be brushed away, especially when one of those games came against the Buffalo Sabres.

Granted it was a night where some strange goals went past Frederik Andersen, but the team didn’t exactly provide many positives to put this off as a one-off situation.

The team has relied heavily on strong goaltending, but as Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star reported this has not been the case lately, with Andersen allowing three or more goals in five straight games.

This is not a shot at the 28-year-old, because he has been the glue keeping this team from falling apart. He has played the most out of any goalie in the league and as it has been noted several times, he has also faced the most shots. At some point, the team has to make it easier on him.

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Having this break in the schedule also give Tomas Plekanec a chance to get more accustomed to the big change of moving from Montreal to Toronto. Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston recently touched on how the veteran centre is visiting his family, who he has not seen in a couple of weeks.

He was also tasked with trying to fill Auston Matthews‘ spot on the top line with William Nylander and Zach Hyman. Now he can try to develop some chemistry on the fourth line with Leo Komarov and whichever winger Babcock decides to put there.

However, that should not be the coach’s biggest concern going forward. Rather, it is the way the defence has been unable to make things easier on themselves with missed assignments and losing battles in front of the net.

It could be a good thing the next game is against the Pittsburgh Penguins, because the team will want to avenge a loss from Feb. 17. They also return home after a tough four-game stretch on the road and in their last 12 games they have only five wins.

The team certainly needs to find a way to play better away from the Air Canada Centre and ironically it begins with a crucial game at home. The Boston Bruins are starting to take advantage of the games in hand, which means they can secure home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

This is where the Leafs can show they are worthy of being in the conversations with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. It will come with some serious soul-searching from players like Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey, who have struggled lately.

It would also help if the team’s depth steps up with the best player out of the lineup. Otherwise Babcock will need to consider some serious changes like he did back when the team’s offence was struggling. It is not time to push the panic button, but things cannot continue to go on like this.

Next: Life without Auston Matthews has been tough

What do you think the Leafs need to do to get back on track and is this the right time for them to try to sort through their struggles? Let us know in the comments.