Whatever Works

March 12, 2014 6:20 am

This may be the most bizarre season that I have watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play. It has been one where they have been out shot and dominated for the majority of the year, yet have found a way to not only stay afloat, but sit second in the Atlantic Division. That success can largely be attributed to the outstanding goaltending of Jonathan Bernier (and James Reimer when he has been given the opportunity), a Hart Trophy caliber season from Phil Kessel and one of the leagues best power plays. There have been other positives (the emergence of James Van Riemsdyk specifically), but those three areas have been the ones that have stood out the most in my eyes.

The current season has been one of just waiting for the bubble to burst and it just hasn’t happened. It appeared likely to occur earlier, the Leafs went 12-16-5 over a 33 game stretch that spread over 2 and a half months. In those 33 games they won only 5 games in open play (ROW victories) and were able to tread water in the playoff picture thanks mostly to a spectacular shootout record and an ultra weak Eastern Conference. It reached the point where major changes were in the offing. Since then though, the Leafs (stunningly) turned it around. They have gone 13-3-3 beginning with a road win against the Boston Bruins. Of note, 12 of those 13 wins have come via open play.

This improved record really hasn’t come with that much of an improved effort or change in play though. Bernier was consistently amazing both during the rough stretch and the good. They are still allowing the opposition to repeatedly hem them in their defensive zone and still allowing an abundance of shots against. Yet here we sit, 16 games remaining the season and the Leafs have a 35-23-8 record. Since the beginning of last year they’re 61-40-13. One way or another, this team has just found a way to get results. Call it unsustainable, call it luck, call it whatever you want. Barring a major collapse though, they will be heading to the playoffs for the second straight season and may very likely have home ice advantage.This sums up this season nicely:

I reached my limit awhile ago with this current team in terms of frustration. It is difficult to sit down to a hockey game and watch the blue and white get their teeth kicked in and then come out with a victory. It is agonizing to watch them blow lead after lead in the third period (a league leading 22 times so far) and then see a flash of brilliance from Kessel to win it. This is not how I have become accustomed to watching any team (let alone the Leafs) be successful. After 8 calender years of Leafs free post-season play, can I really complain about them winning? The weather has turned, time has sprung forward and all I can think about is the playoffs. From this point forward, I don’t care anymore. From now until their eventual elimination, all I want is a win. However it happens is no longer relevant.

This article was written by on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 6:20 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • Graeme

    “The weather has turned”? Where the fuck are you living?

    Good article, though.

  • Jordan

    Good article, a couple of things though. Although they are regularly outshot, they are not regularly outplayed or “get their teeth kicked in” as you say. They are a good young team that scores with ease and has solid goaltending with a lot of saves coming from outside shots. They have a strong powerplay and improved Defence after acquisition of Gleason. They do need to get a lot better at holding leads though. Imagine how good this team will be when they learn how to do this.

  • Doctor__Awesome

    “Open play”???? We hockey fans/players call it “regulation” play/time. Get it right please, this isn’t golf.

    • hope_smoke

      Thanks for the comment