3 major X-Factors that will make or break the rest of the Maple Leafs season

We are in the back half of February, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are holding onto a wild card, so what will ultimately determine whether they return to the playoffs?

Feb 15, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) scores his
Feb 15, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) scores his / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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Matthews, Nylander, and Marner must keep up their stellar seasons

Auston Matthews has been one of the NHL’s most exciting players since he entered the league in 2016. But he’s taken his game even further this season with 66 points and 45 goals in 51 contests, putting him on an epic pace to tie his career-high of 106 points. Nylander (68 points, 27 goals), and Marner (60 points, 22 goals) have been one of the best high-scoring trios out there and their efforts have collectively kept Toronto in contention through mid-February. 

This trio must continue to play an elite level of hockey if the Maple Leafs are to hold off would-be contenders like the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, and the New York Islanders, all of whom find themselves within seven points of Toronto as of February 16th. If they maintain their epic respective paces, don’t expect many opponents to keep up with the sixth-best-scoring team in hockey. 

This isn’t to say others like Morgan Rielly (when he returns) and John Tavares aren’t key contributors who have immensely contributed this season. But after Tavares, there is a huge drop-off in production with Max Domi (25 points) as the team’s next-highest scorer. If Toronto wants to continue their up-tempo scoring (and winning), guys like Matthews, Marner, and Nylander must at least maintain their pace, with Rielly and Tavares closely following.

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference as of February 16th)