The Leafs poor play of late is starting to show in the standings. Just a few weeks ago they had a sizeable lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning for 2nd place in the extremely tough Atlantic Division, but the Lightning are just 2pts behind with 2 games in hand at the moment.
With the idea of passing Boston being laughable at this stage of the season, they’re fighting for home ice advantage against their 1st round playoff series versus Tampa Bay this spring. As has been their way for far too many seasons, it appears that with the pressure ramping up, the team is folding underneath it.
They’re 5-4-1 over their past 10 games, which just so happens to coincide with the return of Morgan Rielly, who had missed just over a month previous. In his absence the team looked far more structured defensively and sported a record of 11-2-1. Needless to say, Morgan has begun to take a lot of heat for his poor defensive play, ill-timed pinches and poor decision making, as he appears to want to jump into the rush far too often. In the first year of an 8 year, $60M contract, there was hope that he could start taking his defensive game to a higher level, but it appears that, if anything, he has taken a step back this season. Leafs Nation is hoping that he matures into a steadier player at some point, but at his age it’s safe to say that the chance of that happening is extremely thin.
Meanwhile, the teams goaltending has also come back to earth. With the deteriorating defensive play it should be expected, but all combined it has a lot of fans pointing at the events of last year and claiming de ja vu.
With Game #46 being played tonight, the team looking and feeling identical to last seasons group and a guaranteed rematch against the team that ousted them in the 1st round last year coming this spring, it’s tough to blame anybody that feels this season will be a wasted one.