Folks, it’s been a tense week in Leafs Nation.
Dropping three consecutive games has been a rare occurence for the Leafs this season. So rare, in fact, that they’ve only done it once prior, when they dropped games to the Hurricanes, Flyers and Sharks all the way back in October. That was during what was perhaps the most panic-inducing stretch of the Leafs’ early going, and they bounced back swimmingly from that rough patch.
It’s fair to say that we’ve already become a fanbase that’s used to winning games. Losing seems unfamiliar, even more so when the a team that’s this good on paper has performed so poorly on the ice.
For now, the Leafs are enjoying a few nights off before a rare home game on Tuesday afternoon against the Carolina Hurricanes. So while the Leafs are taking a step back and trying to recalibrate moving forward, I think it’s time that we as a fanbase do the same. So let’s all take a few deep breaths and take a look at some of the reasons to stay calm during this tough stretch.
The Schedule Will Ease
This argument has been tossed around a few too many times, but it’s still valid. The Leafs’ schedule in the early going has been an absolute grind, and this month has been the worst of it – we can’t forget that, even if it doesn’t excuse their poor play.
Consider this, though: The Leafs play a total of ten road games during the month of December, compared to three at home.
The super-positive upside of this once it’s all said and done? They’ll only play 17 more road games for the entire remainder of the regular season, compared to 25 games at home. Not half bad, considering the going often gets tougher as the season winds on.
The Big Three Will Be Big Again
William Nylander is shooting a 6.4%. Mitch Marner is shooting a 3.3%. The two shot at 10.7% and 10.8% clips last season, respectively.
Yes, I’m tired of saying it. I’m sure you are too. We’re 34 games into the season, after all.
But say it with me, one more time: William Nylander will start scoring. Mitch Marner will start scoring.
This team has its flaws, but no flaws are great enough to keep Mitch and Willy this goal-starved for the entirety of the season.
Connor Carrick Is Not Dead
Contrary to popular belief, Roman Polak will not play every game until the end of time. That much I promise you. Also contrary to popular belief, I would like to reassure you that Connor Carrick will, in fact, likely play hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs again. The lineup has been less than optimal in recent days, but I do believe that soon things will be looking
The Atlantic Division Is Garbage
If I were TLN writer Cam Lewis, my “Around The Atlantic” weekly column would just be a gif of Lou Lamoriello doing finger guns accompanied by the eternal screams of motion-blurred Charlie Lindgren.
The Montreal Canadiens are so bad that they got shut out by the Houston Senators last night. The Senators are so bad that their franchise star player is going to leave and they’ll be forced to rebuild around Dion Phaneuf, as if any team would ever do that. And then there’s the Sabres. Again. It just gets better every season.
In all seriousness, though, the Leafs may have been stuck with a tough schedule and some ugly stretches of games from time to time, but they’ve also been blessed with a spot in the weakest division where the biggest risk they’re likely running right now is having home ice in the first round become less of a certain thing. It’s much too early to have anything be set in stone, but the Leafs can afford to have some growing pains in a division where most other teams seem to be in perpetual agony.
Auston Will Return
Auston Matthews in full gear taping his stick at bench before practice. Deep breaths, people.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 17, 2017
While Matthews did not participate in a full practice today, it appears #AustonWatch is officially on. Hopefully he won’t be MIA for too much longer, and will be healthy and back to his usual world-beating self very soon.
While it would be wrong to peg the Leafs’ recent struggles on Matthews’ absence, it is fair to point out that the return of a player of Matthews’ calibre could definitely be enough to light a fire under the collective butts of this team, and get them back to their winning ways sooner than later. Get well soon, Auston, we miss you.
Breathe, friends. Good teams lose consecutive games and look like hot garbage from time to time. It’s easy to press the panic button with expectations so high, but the standings and the Leafs’ roster on paper should hopefully be enough to instill a calmer and more grounded approach to these tense times. Mistakes will be corrected. Home games will come. Goals will come. Auston Matthews will return.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend without Leafs hockey, strange as it may be, and let’s reset and look forward.