If the Toronto Maple Leafs are ever going to turn around their recent struggles, then they’ll need to do it with their remaining schedule of the calendar year.
The Maple Leafs have three games remaining in 2013, with two of the contests being held on their home-ice. Luckily for Toronto, none of the opponents it will face currently possess a playoff spot.
Toronto will travel to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers for the first time this season. The Maple Leafs have only won once on the road since Halloween and considering the Rangers are only 6-10-2 at the Garden, this is an excellent opportunity for Toronto to pick up a win on the road.
If any team knows more about struggling this season than the Maple Leafs that team is likely New York. The Rangers haven’t lived up to expectations at all this year largely due to injuries, but thanks to the weak Metropolitan Division, they are still in the playoff hunt. However, if Toronto wants to close out its year on a high-note, the Maple Leafs can’t afford to lose out on two points against a team that has struggled as much as the Rangers have. Points on the road will be a lot harder to obtain in 2014 than they were in 2013, as games get harder as the playoffs approach, which is why Toronto needs to take advantage of its opportunity against a team that struggles at home.
After a holiday break in the season, the Maple Leafs will resume action when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 27. Buffalo is the worst team in the league with only 21 points recorded in 36 games this season and it goes without saying why Toronto can’t afford to let points slip away against the lowly Sabres, especially at home.
Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs have struggled against Buffalo this year posting a 1-1-1 record in three games against. For a team like Toronto that only has one regulation win in all of December, failing to capture two points against Buffalo would be unacceptable when the two teams meet on Dec. 27.
Finally, Toronto will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 30 in its final game of 2013. The Maple Leafs lost 3-2 at home to Carolina on Oct. 17 and will be looking to avenge the defeat to help celebrate the arrival of 2014. Toronto lost the previous meeting on a strange goal that bounced off the backboard and then bounced off Jonathan Bernier’s skate and slid into the net. The bizarre game-winning goal was a tough loss to endure as the Maple Leafs had outplayed the Hurricanes for the majority of the contest.
With three teams that aren’t exactly lighting up the standings to close out the calendar year, the Maple Leafs aren’t going to have a better chance to turn around their recent struggles. Toronto struggled during the portion of its schedule that saw routine action against elite Western Conference competition and now it must rebound by defeating the Eastern Conference’s weaker clubs.