The Toronto Maple Leafs finished up their pre-all-star schedule with a hard fought win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.
While the Leafs were lucky to win all four points of the home-and-home series, the sweep does illustrate what this team can do when it gets goaltending.
The Leafs hit the break winning three in a row and four out of five. It's been a disappointing first half, but the fact that they've stayed in it despite all their defense and goaltending issues is impressive.
Toronto Maple Leafs Hit the Break on a Hot Streak, But....
Assuming the Leafs address at least some of their issues, this team can still win the Stanley Cup this year.
However, barring a super-hot streak of Edmonton like proportions, the Atlantic Title is lost to them already, so they are going to have to battle a ton to make it happen.
The Leafs currently sit 11th overall by points percentage.
They are fourth in the Atlantic but have games in hand on everyone. They are comfortably ahead of any of the teams trying to take a Wild Car spot, so the playoffs look assured.
The Leafs sit 18th in expected-goals percentage, so they have to start playing better, but the odds are, they will.
There is a lot to be critical of this roster, but the only really egregious thing is that Treliving didn't add any defensemen or goalies when things got dicey. The fact that this didn't cost the Leafs more than it did is a very lucky break for all involved.
However, since they did get lucky, (i,e they are 11th overall but should be 18th) they have a chance to really do some damage. Clearly this team is great if the core alone, and with a horrendously unlucky Tavares to boot, can keep the team afloat with an AHL blue-line and goaltending situation.
Even though they didn't play that well, the Leafs just swept one of the best teams in the NHL (at least according to the standings) in back to back games. They had strong goaltending and got goals from Auston Matthews when needed.
So if they were to consistently get good goaltending they'd win a lot of games. If Samsonov keeps this up, and suddenly the puck starts going in for Tavares and Bertuzzi, the Leafs are going to become instant contenders.
Where that to happen and they somehow added a 3C to their lineup along with a 1A or 1B defensemen, suddenly we're back to be extremely excited about the possibilities.
I can't speak for anyone else, but my frustration this year has come entirely from the fact that I thought the Leafs were on the verge of greatness, but haven't liked really anything they've done since last year's trade deadline. I feel like they've taken steps backwards by trying to fix problems that didn't exist, and that, had they been patient they would have easily been the best team in hockey.
Still, this team, as is, but with goaltending and Tavares/Bertuzzi not being completely snake-bitten, is pretty scary. They hit the break on a high note, but should recognize the luck it took to get here and be only moderately satisfied. However, they should be optimistic because the fact that they've hung in here shows immense heart and I think it's reasonable to assume management will eventually add reinforcements.