Devils Down Maple Leafs: Is It Time To Hit The Panic Button?
There are times in an NHL season that your team really lets you down. The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their downward spiral on Tuesday night, losing a hard fought game to the New Jersey Devils by a final score of 4-3 in overtime.
Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel tied the game with 44 seconds left in the third period, beating Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur with a slick wrist shot which eluded the future hall of fame netminder.
Despite Kessel’s heroics,Torontowas unable to close the deal, as Devils’ defenseman Mark Fayne put a weak shot pastTorontogoaltender Jonas Gustavsson at the 01:18 mark of overtime.
For Gustavsson, Fayne’s shot resulted in one of three questionable goals on the evening. Soft goals and poor positioning for their goaltenders and a lack of overall defense is killing the Maple Leafs chances of making the playoffs as they have now gone 4-5-1 in their past ten games.
As a result of the Maple Leafs poor performances of late they now stand to lose their stranglehold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as the Winnipeg Jets have tied the Buds in the standings with 65 points on the season, while the Washington Capitals (who have been equally horrible in their past ten games going 3-6-1) sit just two points back of the Blue and White.
Tuesday night was a better overall effort from Toronto, especially in the physical department where captain Dion Phaneuf had a nice tussle with Devils forward David Clarkson, but there are still glaring holes on defense and far too many turnovers in the neutral zone for anyone to take this club seriously.
The Maple Leafs have been blown out in three of their past five games, losing to the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks by a combined score of 16-3.
Despite being Home for their next three games the games will not be easy for the Maple Leafs as they are set to play against the San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers.
With Washington and Florida fighting it out for top spot in the Southeast Division where both Winnipeg and Florida hold a slim two point lead on the struggling Capitals.
We have been saying this since early January, but the next three games really are a make it or break it stretch for the Maple Leafs. Win and they should manage to hold onto eighth spot in the East, lose and it will be very tough for this team to make the playoffs once they have fallen behind.
Let’s face it; confidence is at an all-time low for the Maple Leafs, especially where their goaltending and defense are concerned. Combine that low confidence with the non-stop trade rumors involving a number of roster players and what you get is a team that has lost its killer instinct on some nights.
The opposition smells a wounded dog and they are going for the kill every single night.
It is not time to push the panic button just yet. That said, by the end of the Maple Leafs’ four game Home stand it may very well be.
One thing is for sure, the Maple Leafs do not look like a playoff team right now. Whether or not Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke brings in Columbus Blue Jackets super star forward Rick Nash in a trade or not there is plenty of work to be done in Leafland.
Until next time,