Toronto Maple Leafs: Why the Remaining Schedule Falls in Their Favour

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IMarch 21, 2011

After an impressive 5-2 home victory against the rival Boston Bruins on Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs are headed out on a week-long road trip as their playoff push continues. 

As it just so happens, a Western road trip might be just what the doctor ordered for the club, desperately trying to fight their way into the playoffs as the season drifts closer to the end. 

A glance at their road record this season (15-17-3) suggests playing three straight away from the Air Canada Center might be a disaster, but as of late the road has actually been, well, pretty sweet for the Leafs. 

The team has gone 5-1-2 in their last eight on the road (6-2-2 in their last ten), including huge wins in Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Philadelphia—all playoff teams—and two massive points earned in Carolina last week. 

The lone road loss came at the hands of the Florida Panthers, where in a puzzling move Ron Wilson started J.S. Giguere in net instead of continuing with the hot hand of James Reimer—a move that fans won't soon let the coach forget if, say, the team was to miss the playoffs by a point or two. 

Comparatively, the Buds are just 4-3-3 in their last 10 at home. 

The Leafs play six of their remaining nine games on the road and five of their next six, meaning if they're going to scratch and claw their way into the postseason, it won't be in front of the suddenly lively home crowd. 

This week sees them visit the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and finishing the trip off with an Original Six battle against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. This is the last of the Western Conference they'll see this season. 

Unless, of course, they make it to the...well, never mind.

One major reason—okay, the number one reason—that they've played so well while living out of a suitcase is the play between the pipes of Reimer. He has, quite frankly, been unstoppable on the road where he's recorded 10 of his 15 wins this season.

The last time Reimer lost a game on the road in regulation was Feb. 5 in Buffalo. Since then he's 6-0-1, and 10-3-1 overall as a visitor. 

Who knows why the club has suddenly become so successful on the road. Maybe it's the hotel beds. Maybe it's the room service. Maybe it's the bustling nightlife in hot spots like Buffalo and Carolina.

Whatever the reason, they need to continue to harness their inner road warrior in the final three weeks of the season—they can only afford to lose one of the games. Maybe. 

It all starts in Minnesota. Every game from here on is the biggest of the season. And if there's even a chance of this team making a playoff appearance, they're going to have to play the role of unpleasant guests. 

 

Twitter: @therealjonneely

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