It shouldn’t have come to this, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have set themselves up for a must-win game despite it only being the first week of December.
Normally teams don’t enter must-win scenarios until the final month of the season when the playoffs are just around the corner. However, given that the Maple Leafs have lost five in a row and face an upcoming schedule that includes the past three Stanley Cup champions, Toronto can’t afford to lose when they host the Dallas Stars.
The Maple Leafs struggled to rebound against the San Jose Sharks after coming off their worst week of the season. Toronto lost 4-2 to San Jose after a week where they were embarrassed at home and lost back-to-back games where they held the lead.
The Maple Leafs were blown out of the Air Canada Centre by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-0 loss. It marked the second time this season Toronto was badly beaten by a poor Columbus team. Toronto owned a 4-1 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins only to lose 6-5 in a shootout and also had a one-goal lead over the Buffalo Sabres and went on to lose 3-2 in overtime. To cap off the week, the Maple Leafs lost a key division battle in a 4-2 defeat to the Montreal Canadiens.
After losing five in a row, where the team blew leads and lost ground in their division standings, Toronto can’t afford to lose to Dallas given the schedule they have after the Stars come to town. The Maple Leafs will travel to face the Ottawa Senators, team right on their heels in the division standings. Then they’ll host the past three Stanley Cup winners with the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks all coming to town in the same week. The cherry on top of that grueling week is a trip to visit the St. Louis Blues sandwiched between hosting the Kings and Blackhawks. Not many schedules get harder than facing those four opponents in the span of a week.
Given their recent struggles and upcoming schedule, Toronto can’t afford to lose to Dallas or their current losing streak could get a lot worse. Considering they’ve also been outscored 10-2 in their past two home games, the Maple Leafs should be motivated to put on a better performance in front of their fans.