Let’s look at the bright side here.
The Maple Leafs are 26th in goals against, 28th on the penalty kill and minus 15 for the year.
They have played more games than any of the three teams contesting the remaining two Eastern Conference Wild Card spots.
They have – you may not have noticed this – lost six games in a row.
And this, friends, is why you win games in October.
Because after a devastating stretch in which their weaknesses have been laid bare, the Leafs remain tied with Columbus, Detroit and Washington with 80 points.
It’s like the guy looking at a new house with a real estate agent. A tornado sweeps in, shreds the house and leaves the rest of the neighborhood untouched.
“I’ll take it,” the guy says. “What are the odds of this happening twice?”
First the raw facts.
It’s not like the remaining contenders for the Wild Card are tearing it up.
Take a look at the last 10 games entering Thursday’s games.
And it’s not like those teams are, as the standings will bear out, markedly better than the Leafs who have outscored all three and who have a better power play than two of the remaining three (Washington being the exception).
The Caps have been getting fine play from Jaroslav Halak 4-2-2 with a .929 save percentage since his acquisition from St. Louis but they remain defensively suspect and, like the Leafs, grievously short of secondary scoring. Columbus has spread their scoring around nicely but are just ok defensively (14th overall) and Detroit is running on fumes after losing Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to injury.
We are not talking the 1959 Montreal Canadiens here.
The Leafs swoon has been largely impacted by the groin injury to Jonathan Bernier and the cumulative effect of the loss of Dave Bolland. Bernier is back, albeit looking a bit rusty in his return. Bolland won’t be restored to full health until the summer and looks hobbled but he is in uniform.
One significant issue is games remaining and this does not auger well for the Maple Leafs.
Nor will the Leafs have opportunities to damage their opponents. Saturday’s home date against the Red Wings represents the Leafs’ only contest against their Wild Card rivals. None of the other three play each other the rest of the way.
You can argue the Leafs have been gifted with the easiest schedule. Decide for yourself.
Maple Leaf home games: Red Wings, Flames, Bruins, Jets.
Maple Leaf road games: Flyers, Lightning, Panthers, Senators.
Red Wings home games: Canadiens, Lightning, Bruins, Buffalo, Carolina.
Red Wings road games: Leafs, Canadiens, Penguins, Blues.
Blue Jackets home games: Penguins, Colorado, Chicago, Islanders, Coyotes.
Blue Jacks road games: Hurricanes, Flyers, Stars, Lightning, Panthers.
Capitals home games: Bruins, Stars, Islanders, Blackhawks, Lightning.
Capitals road games: Predators, Devils, Blues, Hurricanes.
To sum up -and aren’t you glad that I am- there is no denying the Leafs have picked the worst possible time to play their worst hockey. They have fewer games, in two cases, 20 per cent fewer games to make their play.
They look porous defensively.
But they can score and they have the best goalie. The playoffs start now.