Time for the Maple Leafs to cease being the kindly Northeast Division neighbour who let everyone play on their lawn, park in their driveway and borrow their ladder without returning it.
With three Northeast games among four this week, and five of the next seven up to Boxing Day, the Leafs have no choice but to start reversing their 1-5-3 record in the division. After the Ottawa Senators drop in tonight, the Leafs are in Buffalo on Friday and back here against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
"That's huge this week and I think it'll be inevitable that we win a game," coach Ron Wilson said yesterday. "We caught the Bruins twice (in losses five days apart earlier this month) when they were getting their game together and they were extra motivated about playing (ex-mate) Phil Kessel.
"If they played us the way they did against the Islanders last night (losing 3-2 in overtime) we would've won."
Before anyone in the media scrum at Ricoh Coliseum yesterday brought up the Leafs being just four points out of a playoff spot, Wilson was talking about two wins this week tightening the standings even more. Toronto is coming off a win Saturday over the league-leading Washington Capitals, but still has the daunting task of passing six teams by the spring.
"Montreal and Ottawa are in striking distance of us, if we can find a way," Wilson said. "We've beaten Montreal. but we have to take some points from other teams.
"We've been winning for a month (points in 10 of 13 games). But you can't call these games must-win because you just exhaust the term. We have been talking to our team about winning two of three and three of five, as a way of eventually getting where we want to be in the middle of April.
"Things that make me feel good (today) is reading about what the Capitals said about us: 'They might not be the best team, but they sure work hard and they never give up.'That's what we need every night. Now that we're getting it, we're starting to show results."