Breaking Down the Toronto Maple Leafs' Recent Struggles

James OnuskoContributor IIIMarch 25, 2014

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 23: Drew MacIntyre #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs replaces James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs against the New Jersey Devils during the second period at the Prudential Center on March 23, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Oh, what a difference just five games can make, particularly when you are the Toronto Maple Leafs. A little more than a week ago, all seemed relatively rosy in Leaf land.

All that has changed, with the team now trying to to rid itself of the albatross that is a five-game losing streak that has put a once-secure playoff spot in real jeopardy.

The injury to Jonathan Bernier has to be the biggest factor in all of this. While James Reimer's numbers had been okay up until the last few weeks, he has struggled mightily over the last five games.

Here are Reimer's numbers over the recent losing streak:

Reimer's Numbers During Five Game Losing Streak
PlayerShots AgainstSavesSave %ES Goals Against

While Reimer's numbers are a reflection of team play as well, there is no denying that Reimer has been something much less than average over this stretch. With Jonathan Bernier's return somewhat clouded according to TSN, there is reason to believe that Reimer may have to be the catalyst to get the team out of this funk before it's too late.

Attacking Reimer's wife on Twitter, as reported by the Toronto Star, isn't likely to help Toronto's last line of defense in the motivation department.

The Leafs have had poor shot differential all season; however, the last five games have not reflected this. Here are the collective numbers in those five games:

Leafs' Shot Differential in Past 5 Games
TeamShots ForShots AgainstTotal DifferentialDifferential Per Game

Shots for have not really been the problem here, once again pointing to poor team defensive play, and in particular Reimer's struggles in goal.

The final culprit in this losing streak has been the lack of scoring from players not named Phil Kessel, Jake Gardiner and Tyler Bozak. These three players have combined for six of the 12 goals that the Leafs have scored.

James van Riemsdyk, Cody Franson, Joffrey Lupul, captain Dion Phaneuf and Nazem Kadri have got to get it going offensively.

The trade deadline is long gone, and the team has to search from within and begin to play inspired, two-way hockey that limits opponents' chances while focusing on burying offensive chances in the attacking zone.

It's not a magic formula, but it seems to have eluded the Leafs on many nights this year.

At stake is a playoff spot. Going into Tuesday night's play, the Leafs are the second wild-card team, with Columbus and Washington within two points and with games in hand.

Four of the next five games are against teams currently in a playoff spot. The Leafs must get into a playoff mindset now, or else it could be a much longer offseason in Toronto than fans, management and players once anticipated.