Toronto Maple Leafs Season Preview: The “Locks”
An Atlantic Division regular season title is a realistic goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs have surpassed 100 points the last four times the NHL has played a full 82-game schedule.
Their roster is loaded at forward. Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll give them a strong goaltending tandem. The maligned, aging defense is questionable but should be middle-of-the-pack, at worst.
The absence of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci should see the Boston Bruins take a step back. The aging Tampa Bay Lightning will miss Andrei Vasilevskiy while he recovers from injury.
The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators should continue their ascent up the NHL standings, but they are a year or two away from serious contention.
Add it all up and the Toronto Maple Leafs have a golden opportunity to win the Atlantic and secure a home-ice advantage for a first-round wild-card opponent.
They will once again reach the 100-point milestone and be in the hunt for the top spot in the division. Anything less than a top-two finish in the Atlantic would be a disappointing season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Season Preview: Auston Matthews
Individually, the Leafs core will once again deliver some eye-popping numbers during the regular season.
You can bet Matthews will be motivated to improve on his “subpar” season of 40 goals from last season. The two-time Rocket Richard trophy winner will be eager to reclaim the goal-scoring crown.
If Keefe continues to dangle the carrot of extra time-on-ice killing penalties, Matthews will want to justify his coach’s faith and perform.
Matthews, with the expected nagging wrist/hand injury from last year behind him, and a return to a career average shooting percentage, is a lock for a 50-goal season.
I see Matthews netting between 55 and 65 goals this season. With Matthews once again filling the net at his usual pace, his co-face of the franchise also seems poised for a special year.