After a rough stretch of play to begin the month of December the Leafs are in danger of falling out of playoff position for the first time this season. They are 2-4-2 over that stretch and I’m surprisingly okay with it.
A- A tough December schedule:
When I looked at the Leafs schedule on December first I almost threw up in my mouth. I saw three back-to-backs, two instances of three games in four nights mostly against solid opponents. The Leafs have only had three days of between games once in the month of December. While I would have loved the team to have performed better they didn’t. These streaks happen to every team. What is important is that the team has still yet to lose more than 3 consecutive games. A few bounces against the Devils or the Sabres and Canucks and the Leafs could have had 3 more wins. This brings me to my next point.
2- No Puck Luck:
Lady-Luck was on the Leafs’ side in November; she has since relocated to Minnesota. The Leafs have found some interesting ways to lose games lately. From a Carl Gunnarsson whiffing on a slap-shot to set-up the OT winner against the Devils, to a puck bouncing off a stanchion right to Williams, the coin has seemed to come up tails a lot more lately. Not to mention some questionable officiating decisions costing the Leafs both goals for- Hamhuis knocking the net off to negate a goal- and against- the Linesman missing the puck leaving the zone on a Kings PP. Just as the good luck could not last, the bad luck is sure to end sometime.
D- Faith in the process and the way this team is built:
In an interview with Maple Street Press over the summer Dave Poulin was essentially asked how fans would respond to the stretch of play we’re currently seeing. His response was that he believed we would be patient if the effort was there but the results were not. Looking at the team so far this year I’m pleased. Kessel has developed into the player we have all been expecting him to be. Despite some poor PK performance Reimer has been playing very well since returning. Dion Phaneuf has been a beast all year.
While the team still has some holes, and some serious issues to address, I am happy with the direction in which it is heading.
The Leafs have five games left this month, all of which are winnable. If the Leafs are in a playoff position, or within a few points of one, on the 1st of January 2012, I don’t think anyone can be disappointed with that. If not, I’ll start freaking out, maybe.