After going 1-2-1 this past week, the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to push forward as they try to improve their playoff chances.
With most of the discussion surrounding what the Toronto Maple Leafs will do at the trade deadline, on the ice, the team will look to rebound from a tough week.
Coming back from the NHL All-Star break and winning three straight games put the Toronto Maple Leafs on a strong path to establishing their position in the playoffs. Then Frederik Andersen got hurt leading to the trade for Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford following a rough loss to the New York Rangers.
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Bouncing back at home against the lowly Anaheim Ducks, they travelled to Montreal and for the third time in four games, the Leafs blew a third period lead. While Toronto shouldn’t be ignoring what happened this past week, they have an opportunity to make up for it.
Following their victory over the Ducks, Sheldon Keefe wasn’t exactly in a celebratory mood considering they were in a great position heading into the third period. What was telling from his post-game press conference was his message about their inability to shut things down.
"“Right from the drop of the puck in the third, we were just on our heels. It just seems like we are lacking some confidence in those situations like it’s almost like we are waiting or expecting something bad to happen. Keefe told reporters. “It’s not what we want to be about. Clearly, when we play like that, we are not a very good team.”"
Keefe also said that he saw a team that looked like a fragile group and that’s probably the best way to describe their performance this past week.
They are a team that had arguably their best effort through two periods against the Panthers to showing a lack of confidence when they needed to have more focus and awareness.
Give Jack Campbell for giving the Leafs a chance to earn a point against the Canadiens considering his team only had one shot on goal. Keefe made it clear when the team is on its heels, not driving play and being careless with the puck, they can’t expect to score their way out of their problems every time.
Even general manager Kyle Dubas believes this stretch is going to be crucial as the team has a limited window before the NHL trade deadline.
"“I think as an organization we have to able to endure and accept that this is a severe test,” Dubas said. “We are not in a great spot, but it is an opportunity for our guys to grow. I don’t fear it; I am excited about it.“I know there is some consternation about it … but I look at it as one of the best opportunities we have had my whole time. I do have a strong belief in the group and I do think it is capable of great things.”"
Acquiring a defenceman should be a priority for Dubas but one player won’t be able to make as much of a difference considering the Leafs need everyone to buy-in. If not, maybe the GM has to consider addition by subtraction whether it is now or in the off-season.
Considering the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to regain their form from last season (at least the regular season) and the Boston Bruins continue to build a sizeable lead, Toronto can’t just hope that Montreal and Florida are going to go on a skid anytime soon.
How important will this stretch of games be for the Leafs? Can they get into a better position before the playoffs or should they be concerned about potentially missing out? Let us know in the comments below.