The Maple Leafs plummeted down the standings after owning a comfortable distance over the majority of the conference for months. Toronto’s recent four-game losing streak put them outside of a playoff position for the first time all season. The Maple Leafs entered the contest tied with New Jersey in the standings, which made the game that much more of a must-win situation.
Winning for only the second time since the Winter Classic, the Maple Leafs haven’t had the type of start to the new tear they were hoping for. Toronto had been outscored 21-7 in their recent losing streak and to make matters worse, three of the four losses were to teams within two points of the Maple Leafs in the standings.
It’s a good thing Toronto ended the losing streak against New Jersey, otherwise not only would the Devils have leaped over the Maple Leafs in the standings, Toronto would also be heading to visit the Boston Bruins on a five-game losing streak.
The Maple Leafs have lost twice to the Bruins this season, having been outscored 8-3 in the two meetings. Not many experts will be predicting Toronto to have success when they visit Boston in their next game on January 14. However, at least the Maple Leafs can enter the contest with a little momentum.
Speaking of momentum, Toronto’s pair of American Olympians appears to be heating up when the team needs them the most. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk have combined for seven points in the Maple Leafs’ past two games, including three points against the Devils. If Toronto stands any chance of winning back-to-back games for the first time in 2014 with a win against the Bruins, the team will need Kessel and van Riemsdyk to produce.
2014 hasn’t gotten off to a great start for the Maple Leafs, but a win against the Devils finally gives the team a little bit of positivity.