John Tavares needs to keep his team motivated to avoid losing any more points to bottom-feeders
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The Atlantic Division is far too tight for the Leafs to be coughing up any more points to bottom-feeders

Published January 5, 2024 at 3:38 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs have started 2024 with a California road trip and two wins, over the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks. They were two of the best and most complete games the Leafs have played all season and following a two-day break, the Leafs will look to continue that play Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. After two dominating victories and a couple of days between games, tomorrow's game is setting up to be a 'trap' game of sorts.

San Jose sits at the bottom of the league with just 9 wins and 21 points and are 0-10-0 in their last 10 games. In those last 10 games, they have scored just 15 goals and given up 43. Unfortunately for the Leafs, these are the types of games that have haunted them. For whatever reason, over the last decade, the Leafs have struggled against 'bottom-feeder' teams, often playing down to their level and losing more of these games than they should. This season, for instance, against the bottom eight teams in the league, the Leafs are 6-5-3. It isn't a terrible record, but it should be much better than it is and a lot closer to 14-0-0, when you take a look at where the Leafs are in the standings in comparison to those teams.

With the Leafs struggling against the bottom of the league, they have left points on the table and instead of ranking in the top three or five in the league on points percentage, the Leafs (.625) rank 10th, well behind the likes of their Atlantic Division rival Boston Bruins, who rank second (.703).

Even if you take 5 of the 13 points the Leafs failed to collect against the bottom of the league, that would make them tied for second in the Atlantic Division with Florida and just two points behind Boston for the division lead. Instead, they are 5 points back of Florida, 7 back of Boston and just 2 points ahead of Tampa Bay for the second Wild Card spot.

While recent history has not been kind to the Leafs in these games against bottom-eight teams, these next two games are vitally important for the Leafs. An extra 4 points would move them closer to both Boston and Florida with games in hand. Boston also has a couple of tough matchups coming up against Tampa and Colorado. The Panthers take on the Avs on Saturday as well.

The Leafs can't afford to be dropping any more points to bottom-feeders, that's the bottom line. Sheldon Keefe will have to do well to prepare his guys to play up to the level that they have against LA and Anaheim this week to avoid falling into another trap game scenario and forfeiting points that should, by all accounts, be easy money.

January 5   |   655 answers
The Atlantic Division is far too tight for the Leafs to be coughing up any more points to bottom-feeders

Will the Sharks beat the Leafs to snap their 10-game losing streak?

Absolutely! It's a trap game if I've ever seen one8813.4 %
Nah, the Leafs are playing too well right now52680.3 %
I'm betting Sharks on the moneyline just in case416.3 %
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