It’s hard to look at a team just two points away from a playoff spot and claim things are looking grim. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs might be an exception to the rule.
Last night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings was Toronto’s eighth straight defeat. Said losing streak has moved the Leafs from postseason contention all the way down to tenth in the Eastern Conference. Though, at 80 points, they’re hardly close to elimination, things aren’t looking pretty. Earlier in the week, players like forward Joffrey Lupul were trying to remain hopeful. Now?
“It’s hard to stay positive,” Lupul said after the loss to Detroit. “We pretty much had to have this one.”
Since the Red Wings are holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot, a win over them would’ve significantly helped Toronto’s cause. Instead, not only did Detroit net themselves two crucial points, but the seventh place Columbus Blue Jackets also won last night. With teams above them winning and the Leafs faithful losing hope at rapid pace, many around the league are wondering if last night’s loss was the final blow to Toronto’s postseason dreams.
To be fair, said dreams aren’t finished off just yet. A couple wins could significantly shift the playoff picture. That said, things aren’t going to be easy for the Leafs.
First of all, time isn’t on their side, with just six remaining games left on the schedule. Making things worse is the fact that none of them are against clubs they’re fighting against for playoff positioning. Their final games of the season are against the struggling Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, which could definitely help matters. Of course, by then, things may already be decided.
Schedule issues aside, the real concern is just how deflated this skid has left those in the locker room. As you saw before, the losing streak has definitely taken a lot out of the team. While it’s easy to say everyone on the club still believes they can get it together, it certainly isn’t showing on the ice. If the Leafs want to get things turned around, they’ll have to mentally regroup like there’s no tomorrow. For all intents and purposes, there really isn’t.
A home game against the Calgary Flames this Tuesday would appear to be a solid remedy to end the losing streak. If Toronto can take advantage of this, they can definitely make one last push to get back into the playoff picture. If not, an offseason full of drama will be kicking off a little earlier than planned.