On the first day of training camp, I said the Maple Leafs would qualify for the playoffs with an eye towards advancing deep into the post-season.
That hasn’t changed.
If you look at the standings, you will find we are in the playoffs. But we know, we have not played well enough and when we have, it hasn’t lasted long enough. We are a game under .500. We still believe we need to be 10 games above .500 and that’s just to get to eighth spot.
The good news is, we are closer than ever to a full lineup. Carlo Colaiacovo, who was in our top six defencemen, is still out but now we have Mark Bell back from suspension and Kyle Wellwood after he was shut down early in training camp because of his abdominal injury. Bryan McCabe and Darcy Tucker, two of the mainstays of our power play, are now back.
We’ve had a group of games we want to leave behind but we have many left in which we can make up ground.
The main area we have to improve is goals against. We have been prone to giving up too many goals. When we defended well, the results were there. We are 5-0 in games in which we give up fewer than three goals.
There have been some real brights spots as well. Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov have been terrific. We are getting very good play out of Matt Stajan and Jason Blake. Pavel Kubina has earned a great deal of ice time and he has shown why he was a key defenceman on a Stanley Cup winner.
With a few exceptions, the loss to the Washington Capitals comes to mind, Vesa Toskala has been solid in goal.
This is an opportunity for us to start building some momentum in our season.
What we are going to do is keep our group focused on feeling good about what we do well and improve in our defensive play and overall consistency.
That’s what we’re looking for, consistency, and we are very confident we are going to find it.