The Toronto Maple Leafs need to build off their recent successful western road trip with less than two weeks remaining before the Olympic break.
Given the lack of success Eastern Conference teams have had against Western Conference opponents, Toronto should be thankful they managed to record five out of a possible eight points during a four-game road trip. The Maple Leafs will return home after a posting a 2-1-1 record on the road and look to continue to climb the standings with a three straight games against division opponents.
Toronto entered the western road trip on a four-game winning streak before extending the streak to six games by winning the first two games on the trip. The Maple Leafs managed to sweep the season series against the Phoenix Coyotes by winning 4-2 to kick-off the trip. Toronto had already defeated the Coyotes when they visited the Maple Leafs on Dec. 19 in a game Toronto won 2-1 in a shootout.
The next night, the Maple Leafs denied the Colorado Avalanche a chance to sweep the season series against Toronto after Colorado had already defeated the Maple Leafs earlier in the year. On Oct. 8 the Avalanche handed Toronto its first loss of the season in a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto was able to avenge that loss nearly 50 games later as they defeated the Avalanche 5-2 in Colorado. It was the third time this season the Maple Leafs have managed to win back-to-back games on the road on back-to-back nights.
Unfortunately, Toronto failed to bring the type of effort and intensity they used to begin the road trip when they traveled two days later to Texas. The Dallas Stars snapped the Maple Leafs’ six-game win streak in dramatic fashion with a 7-1 blowout victory over Toronto. The Maple Leafs had defeated the Stars 3-2 in overtime when they visited Toronto in December, but clearly Dallas had no intentions of following in Phoenix’s footsteps and getting swept in the season series. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn had been held pointless in Toronto but combined for six points in the blowout win in Dallas.
To close out the trip, the Maple Leafs began a contest against the Winnipeg Jets looking a lot like they did in Dallas after giving up two goals in the first seven minutes. Toronto was down 4-1 before James Reimer was pulled which seemed to spark the Maple Leafs as they stormed back to force overtime before eventually falling in the extra frame 5-4 after Dustin Byfuglien scored the game-winning goal for the Jets.
Regardless of suffering two straight losses to close out the road trip, the Maple Leafs managed to record enough points to pass the struggling Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division. The five points Toronto recorded on the road could turn out to be huge in the standings given how well the Maple Leafs have played at home. Toronto will play four of their final six games before the Olympic break at home, and given their 17-10-1 home record, the Maple Leafs have set themselves up to continue to climb the standings before the two-week break in the season arrives.
Given their favorable home schedule, Toronto must build off their recent success on the road as they continue to battle for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.