Toronto Maple Leafs Are Playoff Tested and Playoff Ready

Feb 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin (38) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin (38) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs won their third game in a row last night, easily handling the Washington Capitals, who they hadn’t played in about three years, for some reason, I forget why (!).

Though the advent of social media has allowed people to complain about seemingly everything that isn’t completely perfect, this was a great game, one where the Toronto Maple Leafs looked vastly superior to a supposed contender.

Sure, shots were the same, but one of these teams was shooting from the outside, while the other was driving the net and creating chances.

The Leafs had 26 chances, to Washington’s 14, with nine of those coming in the third period when Washington started taking risks to try and score.  They didn’t score, and the Leafs had possession of the puck for 76% of the time in the third period, so this was probably a bad strategy.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Washington Capitals

There were quite a few things worth mentioning from this game, for starters, the Engvall-Kampf-Mikheyev line was nuts.  All three players finished with possession ratings near 70%.  Without Engvall this line has struggled recently, but he’s the straw that stirs the 3rd line’s drink, and he’s having an underrated and fantastic season. (all stats naturalstattrick.com).

Secondly, Justin Holl.  He has never been a bad player, he’s just the most obvious spot on a really deep team to upgrade.   If, however, he plays like he did last night, no one the Leafs could reasonably trade for is going to be better.

Holl, who has five points in his last two games, was the Leafs best players last night.  The shots were 9-3 Toronto with him on the ice, dangerous chances were 5-1 and he had nearly an 80% expected-goals rating.

Finally, John Tavares.  Everyone talks about his scoring slump, but who cares? He is just under a point per game in a league were there have only been 24 players who have scored at a point-per-game rate over the last three combined years.

Tavares has a 52% CF and a 53% expected-goals rating, and he’s going to finish around 30 goals 82 points, which are numbers that make him one of the best players in the NHL.  Talk about his decline is ridiculous bordering on stupid.  Sure, he isn’t maybe the top 10 player he was in 2012 but he’s still in the conversation for the best second-line centre in hockey and is having a fantastic year.

He had two assists last night and the reason he is on a career worst goal scoring slump has more to do with bad luck than anything else.

The win moved the Toronto Maple Leafs to 74 points, which is good for a tie for fourth overall.  They are fifth by points-percentage and are on the verge of passing Florida and Carolina, two teams who might have more points, but who aren’t even close to as good as the Leafs overall.

Strap in my friends, because this is going to be fun…..or it will be, as long as you ignore the people who will find something to whine about after every win….

Oh here I am at my word limit (self imposed) and I didn’t even talk about the weird fact that Rasmus Sandin scored the winning goal in one of his worst games of the year, a year in which his lack of offensive luck has actually prevented people from noticing how great he’s been.

Next. Trade Rumours Get It All Wrong. dark

Three in a row baby!  This is a great team, one that is battle tested and playoff ready. They have zero weaknesses, and when their goaltending inevitably starts getting better they will be nearly unstoppable.  The Atlantic Title is in the bag, and they are coming for the Eastern Title, the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup.