As the Leafs bursted out to their 9-3-1 record both the media and the fanbase were singing the praises of this revitalized blue and white team. Toronto was a juggernaut, they had the leagues leading goal scorer and point getter (Phil Kessel), Dion Phaneuf their captain and leader was leading the league in plus/minus. The Leafs were thriving while their star goalie (James Reimer), along with high character role player Colby Armstrong were injured and out of the lineup. Toronto had withstood the struggles of fourth year defenseman Luke Schenn and had a great record during the absence of first line centre Tim Connolly. For the first time since 1999, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in first place after the first month of the season. This is what life was like Saturday morning in Leafland.
As of today, the Leafs still sit atop the North East Division while occupying the second seed in the Eastern conference. However, the clouds have appeared over the big smoke. Having been outscored 12-1 in their last two games (both losses), hospitals and walk in clinics are inundated with sore ankles from the throngs of people jumping off of the Leafs bandwagon. People are questioning whether it is time to make knee jerk acquisitions. MSM writers are claiming that they saw this slump coming. All the while Twitter has become a place for panic and fear among the former loud and proud blue and white faithful. According to both Twitter and the callers on Sportsnet 590, the sky is falling and the end is near.
Now I agree, the Leafs looked horrible against the Bruins on Saturday night. The 7-0 embarrassment was a perfect storm. Toronto was the youngest team in the league and in first place. They had everybody who knows about hockey (save for Rob Pizzo, but does he really know much?) singing their praises. The Bruins were sitting in last place in the Eastern conference, and on the verge of coming out of their early season slumber. What transpired between these two teams was ugly for the Buds and best left in the past. Yesterday’s performance against the Florida Panthers was a 1-0 game with less than four minutes left in the second period. A game in which the Leafs were dominating, but in the end were let down by an inadequate Jonas Gustavsson. Yes, they lost, but Leaf fans should be content to know that the Leafs competed hard. Of course without James Reimer this Leafs team could be in for a rough stretch, yet I believe in Ben Scrivens. I’ve said it in the past, I think Scrivens can be special. In the meantime, while Reimer gets healthy I think the 25 year old rookie can hold the fort. As long as Toronto stays away from “The Monster” I think this Leafs team will rebound.
What Toronto needs though is that maturity and leadership that was being praised earlier in the season to step to the forefront. Core players such as Phaneuf, Kessel, Grabovski, Schenn and Komisarek are integral to this Leafs team avoiding another long slump. The Leafs are at a crossroads at the moment. With winnable games coming up against the St.Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators, Toronto needs to get back on the winning foot. The core of this team needs to do whatever necessary in the coming games to achieve results. This town has begun to turn on the Leafs (heck some people were criticizing them when they were in 1st), so the streak needs to end at two games. When everything was lollipops and teddy bears last week the leadership was getting praised, now that the tide has turned those leaders need to earn their money. Regardless of who is in between the pipes, how the Leafs respond in the next four games may determine the next five months for the blue and white.
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