The Maple Leafs are in the full swing of the dog days of 2018/2019 season and the results aren’t glowing. A roster that is made up of names like Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Andersen has struggled as of late but the seeds of this swoon were planted early on in the season.
When the Maple Leafs started the 2018/2019 season, the Maple Leafs were scoring at will which covered over their slow starts and inconsistent defensive play. But there were warnings that once the rest of NHL adjusted to the high flying Maple Leafs things would tighten and the Leafs would need to adjust.
That adjustment hasn’t happened, and now we see a team tripping over itself as we get closer to the playoffs. This is crystalized in the Maple Leafs record against tight checking teams (7-14-1), only made worse by the fact that that Maple Leafs have a knack for starting games slowly, sometimes not showing up until the second and in some games third period.
True contenders don’t have these lapses of effort, when looking around the division especially, you will see that Tampa has run away with the league title, Boston just ended a streak that saw them earn points in 19 straight games. It is because of this consistency that the Lightning and Bruins are considered serious Stanley Cup contenders.
The issues the Maple Leafs are facing aren’t because of a lack of talent, but a complete lack of compete. Hard work is an intrinsic quality people have or don’t. Hard work can’t be coached, that very point must be keeping Mike Babcock and his staff up at night. These are players, some who have just signed big contracts, who felt were deserving of those contracts now the effort and team results need to reflect that.
Luckily the Maple Leafs schedule eases over the next couple of weeks, as they play a majority of their games against teams out of the playoff picture. If the Maple Leafs can turn this trend around, get some dominate wins under their belt then the concerns around Leafs Nation will subside.
However if the Maple Leafs continue to fall flat in the face of adversity then concerns around playoff success against the Bruins will only grow and sound of boos and anger will get louder.
The Maple Leafs will be facing continued adversity as the season winds down. How they go about facing it, will go a long way at improving their chances come April. If they can’t get their compete level up to match their talent then the final games of the season and their playoff aspirations will go out in a blaze of failure.