The Toronto Maple Leafs face a week filled with divisional opponents, and if they hope to make any impact in the standings they’ll need their top line to lead the way.
The Maple Leafs will close out a five-game road trip with a visit to the Detroit Red Wings and then return home Wednesday night to host the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Saturday night they will welcome the Montreal Canadiens to town.
A loss to the Red Wings would be embarrassing given the severely depleted Detroit lineup, and failing to win at least one game against the Canadiens or Lightning could result in no better than a wild card position for Toronto’s playoff hopes.
In order to secure at least two victories against the trio of Atlantic Division foes, the Maple Leafs will need to rely on Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak to break out of a recent slump. Toronto’s top line has only combined for two assists in their past three games, while Kessel and van Riemsdyk have combined for only one goal in the past seven games.
The good news for the Maple Leafs is in eight games combined against the Red Wings, Canadiens and Lightning, Kessel and van Riemdyk have combined for 20 points. Bozak, despite his injury-plagued season, has still recorded seven points in seven games against the three divisional opponents. With the top line leading the way with 27 points in eight games, the Maple Leafs have managed to record a 5-1-2 record this season against their upcoming three opponents.
Given the recent slump the top line is suffering from, the stat sheet is showing there aren’t three better opponents the Maple Leafs’ trio would like to face. The Atlantic Division standings are so tight, with the Lightning and Canadiens tied at 81 points and the Maple Leafs right behind with 80 points, this could be the opportunity Toronto needs to gain ground in the standings.