Trips to Western Canada haven’t been pretty for the Toronto Maple Leafs in recent history, which is why their upcoming three game road trip will be a major turning point of their season.
Toronto will visit the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 29 and then play the Calgary Flames the next night to complete their Alberta visit. They’ll round out their road trip before heading home by visiting the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 2.
The visit through Western Canada will hold a special significance for key members of the Maple Leafs as they’ll have the opportunity to play in their hometowns for the only time this season. Captain Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul are from Edmonton. Mason Raymond is from Calgary, while Morgan Rielly will have the first chance to play at home in his young career when the team visits Vancouver. No doubt the four players will be fired up to play at home, and the Maple Leafs will need their extra energy if they hope to return to Toronto with a winning record from their road trip.
With an 8-4 record to begin the season, a 1-2 road trip quickly eliminates some of the positive work done in the first month of the season. If Toronto wants to prove they are a legitimate playoff team, they’ll need to return home winning at least two of their three games.
The Oilers are dead last in the Western Conference, while the Flames are only one team ahead of Edmonton in the standings. If the Maple Leafs are ever going to have success on a western road trip, they must defeat the weaker teams in the conference. Toronto has already defeated Edmonton at home this season and managed to sweep the season series two years ago. If the Maple Leafs can manage to sweep the province of Alberta by defeating Calgary as well, it’ll be a successful road trip regardless of the result against Vancouver. What makes the Flames game potentially dangerous it is the perfect trap game for Toronto. Kicking off the road trip with a victory could result in looking ahead to the Canucks and overlooking Calgary.
If Toronto splits their games in Alberta then the Vancouver contest becomes a must win game. The Maple Leafs must return home with at least a 2-1 record, but they also must prove they can compete against legitimate Stanley Cup contenders like the Canucks. Vancouver is off to just as good of a start as the Maple Leafs and will prove to be a tough challenge. Toronto failed their first test against Stanley Cup competition when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks a week ago but proved they are no pushover when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins this past weekend. A win over the Canucks would go a long way in convincing the rest of the league the Maple Leafs are for real this season and that October hasn’t just been a good start to the year.
Regardless of what happens out west for Toronto, it’ll prove to be a major turning point of the season for the club. A winning record will silence many of the team’s critics, however, a losing road trip will raise plenty of doubt and likely suggest there’s lots of work left to be done before playoffs become a reality.