Well Leafs Nation what a crazy journey we have been on with the NHL deadline now behind us and the final charge to the second straight playoff appearance in the Babcock & Matthews era.
As predicted the Maple Leafs didn’t make the big splash as some in the media and fans had wanted at the deadline. But witnessing the prices for the likes of Rick Nash for example, I am satisfied this management group made the right decision and didn’t sell off the farm for a quick fix.
The trade for Tomas Plekanec was not flashy but a solid pickup nevertheless. It was a low risk acquisition given the assets traded away to acquire him. Plekanec shores up the 4th line centre position after Dominic Moore struggled to gain Coach Babcock’s trust all season.
Given the inevitable first round match up against the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, one has to like this acquisition that much more as Plekanec has been known to be a Bruins killer in the playoffs. His 49 pts. in the playoffs should also offer some more scoring on a team that at times appears to be able to score at will.
Post deadline the Maple Leafs have struggled with inconsistencies in their play and poor starts which was a recipe for four straight losses to Tampa, Florida,Washington and Buffalo. The absence of their best player Auston Matthews also didn’t help matters much as he continues his recovery from his separated shoulder.
So it was a positive sign last night when the Maple Leafs put all the pieces together for a huge win over the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins, a 5-2 victory which also set a franchise record for 10 straight home wins in a season. Have to think with a couple more days rest that the Maple Leafs may still get further positive news with Auston Matthews retuning hopefully sometime this week.
I appreciate the angst and concern that was felt at times this season, but one cannot lose sight on what this team has accomplished to date. In only their second years in the NHL, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Auston Matthews have led the Maple Leafs into back to back playoff appearances not seen by rival franchises who also started their rebuilds at the same time or even before.
From earning a wild card spot last year to being top three in their division in the following season is outstanding. Had Auston Matthews not missed as many games as he has maybe we would be looking at an even tighter race for tops in the division. This folks is why in these parts you won’t get too many complaints from me.
These final 13 games of the regular season will provide further insight to a young team who will be gearing up for their second appearance in the playoffs. This is a team that has continued to grab attention and commenced to expand the imagination of what could be going into playoffs.
A reasonable goal should be winning a round or two, if the Maple Leafs can put their best game forward who is to say they cannot go further. Who could have predicted that two seasons ago? This is why Leafs Nation should be excited and proud of what has been accomplished so far and even more hopeful for what is yet to come.