So what do we make of the Toronto Maple Leafs at this point?
Legitimate playoff contender, or a house of cards that could be primed for a big second-half collapse? At this point, I'm going with the latter.
Since starting the season 9-3-1, the Leafs have been a .500 team over the past 26 games and are currently one of the many teams stuck in the middle of the playoff logjam. Right now in the Eastern Conference, there are eight teams (Florida, Ottawa, Toronto, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington, Winnipeg and Buffalo) that are separated by just nine points in the standings. The Maple Leafs enter the week No. 7 thanks to their most recent three-game winning streak, one point ahead of the injury depleted Pittsburgh Penguins and two points ahead of the No. 9 seed Winnipeg Jets.
The Leafs are giving up goals (and shots) at a pretty alarming rate, and the goaltending situation has been a bit of a mess; they own a sub-.900 save percentage as a team. Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer both find themselves near the bottom of the NHL's goaltending pile with their individual marks.
It's been pretty obvious from the start that this team is going to go as far as its offense, led by Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, is going to be able to take it.
So far, the two have been brilliant, and as of Monday afternoon are two of the top four scorers in the NHL with 48 and 47 points. And that's great. But they've also been playing well above their career norms, particularly Lupul, which probably isn't a good sign for the long term. Sooner or later there's going to be a bit of a regression for these two guys as their numbers fall back in line with their normal career levels (unless you believe they've suddenly become two of the best players in the NHL), and once that happens, Toronto doesn't have the offensive depth to overcome that.