It’s almost a reflex, at this point, to take the Toronto Maple Leafs’ successes as evidence that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Considering their bounty of young talent, looking forward is reasonable.
Still, are we discounting what this group might accomplish in 2016-17?
Wednesday presented the latest reason for Maple Leafs fans to live in the moment, as they really sweetened their playoff chances with a resounding 4-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings.
That win had the usual, like Auston Matthews responding to a tremendous goal with “no big deal.”
… While also featuring a rare moment, like Roman Polak scoring a goal, and in his 600th game to boot:
Yeah, things are good right now, even if some are trying to keep others in check.
With this result, the Leafs opened up a brief lead over the Boston Bruins for third in the Atlantic Division. Really, though, the race between Toronto and Ottawa for what would be home ice in a first-round matchup looks like it will be more interesting:
Senators: 57 points in 46 games played
Maple Leafs: 55 points in 46 GP
Bruins: 54 points in 51 GP
Panthers have 50 points, bottom three teams have 49, Canadiens way ahead in first at 65.
As you can see, the Maple Leafs are looking more and more like a lock for a spot in the postseason.
With respectable possession stats and that arsenal of young players who only seem to be getting better, they may even be able to make some noise if they make the playoffs.