If the Toronto Maple Leafs wants to turn around their recent struggles in the win column then they need to take advantage of their current five-game home stand.
The Maple Leafs kicked off the first of five straight games at home with a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The win would have been something to celebrate had the team not lost 3-1 the night before to Buffalo, the worst team in the league. It was the team’s fourth loss in their previous five games.
Toronto now has the next four games at home to erase the memory of their recent losing skid and they need to take full advantage of it if they want to remain near the top of the standings. The Maple Leafs currently sit tied for second in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference and if they want to make the playoffs they must have success on their home ice.
The upcoming four games will provide a favorable schedule for Toronto in terms of their competition, as only one of their opponents currently owns a winning record. The New York Islanders will come to town on Nov. 19, as the two teams will face each other for the first time this season. Two nights later the Maple Leafs will host the Nashville Predators, a team they dominated in Nashville with a 4-0 victory on Oct. 10. The only team with a winning record, the Washington Capitals, will be in town on Nov. 23 in what will be a battle between two top teams in the conference. Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in town on Nov. 25, as Toronto will look to avenge an embarrassing 5-2 loss they suffered in Columbus on Oct. 25.
The only way the Maple Leafs could have an easier schedule is if they were set to face the Edmonton Oilers in four straight games at home. If Toronto wants to prove they truly are a top team in the conference than they need to win at least three of their next four games. Playoff teams don’t lose to bad teams and given the start to the season Nashville and Columbus have had, losing to either of them would be unacceptable. The Islanders always play the Maple Leafs tough in Toronto but given that they aren’t as strong as recent years, the Maple Leafs can’t afford to give up points to teams with losing records.
The Capitals game will be a true test to where Toronto stands with the conference’s elite teams as Alexander Ovechkin loves to steal the show playing against the Maple Leafs. If Toronto can contain the Russian superstar, it would go a long way in legitimizing their playoff hopes. However, if they struggle against Washington and slip up to one of their other three opponents, then serious doubts will remain as to whether or not the Maple Leafs are any better than they were a year ago.
If Toronto wants to prove they are a team that is capable of not only making the playoffs but also winning a round or two in the spring, they need to do it by winning at least three of their next four at home.