February 2, 2007
Maple Leafs do the math
By LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media
The Maple Leafs' successful raids on foreign ice last month are just a prelude to the War of 18-12.
With 30 games remaining and plenty of lost ground to recover, the Leafs figure they need 18 wins -- or 36 points -- to hit 92, considered the minimum to make the Eastern Conference playoffs this year.
The euphoria of six wins in eight games, five of those on the road, had dissipated by the time the Leafs arrived home yesterday from their 2-1 win in New York. They remain outside the top eight playoff seeds, waiting nervously for teams to make up their games in hand.
"We'll need more of it," Sundin said of their recent scoring/defence/goaltending mix that has revived post-season hopes. "We carried on from Carolina (in New York), helped out in our own end and had all five guys playing defence. So we're keeping it out of our net a lot more."
The Leafs are still paying the price for a seven-game losing streak in the autumn. But a win tomorrow in Ottawa, where the Senators hold their regular-season mastery over Toronto at 3-1-1, would be regarded as the Leafs' most significant of their five-game road trip.
Andrew Raycroft seems up to the task, allowing just three goals the past three games against some fairly difficult teams. He insists his asbestos hockey pants are holding up through a fiery fan baptism in Toronto.
"There was no outside counsel for me. We just all stuck together in here through that tough December," Raycroft said.
"We're a fairly young team, but at the same time, we have some guys who've been around enough to know that you're going to have a bad three weeks in a year. But it was nice to have feedback from the guys to make my life easier at the rink."
The Leafs' excellent road record this season (14-9-3) has been helped of late by the opportunity to come home and recover between some games, such as they've done the past 48 hours.
"I really think we'll be a better home team down the stretch (where they play 11 of their final 19 games)," coach Paul Maurice said. "When you find a way to win on the road as we have, I think we'll be all right.
"Andrew has been really good and he has started to get some breaks around the net, too. You can always tell a goalie's (confident) when he starts steering shots to the corner and not just bunting them back in front."
Breaking down the Leafs' final 30 games:
Vs. Northeast Division: 11
Vs. Rest of Conference: 15
Vs. Western Conference: 3
Vs. Teams above .500: 6
Vs. Canadian teams: 7
Back-to-back situations: 5
Back-to-back, road: 1
Most consecutive days off: 2
Record in final 30 games last year: 16-11-3
Last game on the schedule: April 7 vs. Montreal