Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Analysis of Leafs Schedule: Second Half

To recap, this is the second of two installments, containing our pre-season prognosis. The first-half can be found in our previous post.

In this second and final installment, we look at the last-half of the season.

Second Half

Starting the new-year with two against the Bruins, the Leafs spend most of January on the road. 7 of 12 games will be away from the ACC, including a three game swing through Florida, ending in Pittsburgh to face Crosby, Malkin and Fleury. The Leafs then stop in for a single home-game, a Saturday night tilt against the Habs, and then end the month on the front-end of the longest road trip of the season (a five gamer that sees them travel as far west as St. Louis).

Highlight Game: Saturday, January 20. The Leafs end a three game trip with a Saturday night tilt in the Igloo. We should know by now whether the Crosby/Malkin show has moved from pre-season hype into full-fledged dynamic duo.

Prediction: The Leafs will be spending more time on the road than at home, which could spell trouble for a team so apt to taking penalties (victim of the long change, etc). 6W-6L

More of the same for the buds, playing 7 of 12 on the road again. The month starts with the last half of the five game road trip from January, and ends with another four game trip. Two games against the Isles and others against the likes of the Pens and Blues should mean at least a couple of wins, but all those road games are going to be taking a major toll through this typically tough part of the season.

Highlight Game: Saturday, February 17 the Oil roll into town. Will they be the same team that the surprised the hockey world and made the finals, or will they fall back to one struggling to make the post-season?

Prediction: A bad month: 5W-7L, if they are lucky.

The final full month of the season, 14 games, eight of them at home. The Leafs longest homestand of the season is just two games, and they have three of them this month. Three sets of back-to-back games during this month, almost all of them against extremely tough competition. Three games against the Sabres, two against the Sens, one against the Habs equals some serious divisional jockeying. Almost every game played at the end of the month will be a must-win if playoff hopes are still alive. The schedule makers couldn't have done a better job!

Highlight Game: A highlight weekend, really, and one that will probably decide the season for the Buds. Back-to-back tilts against the Sabres on the weekend of the 23rd. Will Briere be challenging for the league scoring title? Will the Sabres be challenging for first overall? Or was it all a flash in the pan? IMO, the Leafs will need both these games at this point, and the Sabres will be proving all those doubters wrong as they make a solid run at first overall.

Prediction: In a bit of deja-vu from 2005-2006, the Leafs will finish strong, with Mats making a run at many, many Leafs records (most points, most goals in club history), 9W-5L.

Just 4 games here, with the final game of the season against the Habs. I hope that this game is a formality, and the Leafs have squeeked in with their big March push, but something deep down inside of me longs for a one-game showdown on the final night of the season.

Highlight Game: Saturday, April 7, against the Habs at home, 'nuff said.

Prediction: Big finish, 3W-1L.

So that's it. Based on my predictions, the Leafs will be 23W-19L in the second-half, for an overall record of 44W-38L for this season. The Leafs finish 8th, battling tooth and nail with the Bruins, Habs, Flyers, Thrashers, Lightning and Pens (yep, those Pens) for the last three spots. No point even watching now, is there?

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