Maple Leafs may be favored to win Stanley Cup, but they still have work to do

CBS Sports

It's no secret anymore that the Toronto Maple Leafs are an NHL powerhouse.

The Leafs entered the weekend as the second-best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that they lost to 4-1 last Thursday night, but arguably outplayed as they outshot them 49-21. In other words, if it wasn't for a sensational performance by Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevsky, the Leafs would have defeated — and outplayed — the best team in the league.

Hailed as a championship contender prior to the start of the season after the John Tavares signing and a 105-point 2017-18 season — the best in franchise history — the Leafs were proclaimed as the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup entering the season, ahead of perennial contenders such as the Lightning and Nashville Predators.

But let's be honest — they're not quite there yet.

The Leafs entered the weekend with the most road victories in the NHL (12), but they're about to complete a grueling road trip that has seen them go 1-3, with disheartening losses to the Florida Panthers (one of the the four worst teams in the NHL) and Boston Bruins (a 6-3 thrashing at the start of the road trip).

Most notably, the Leafs' much-publicized power play unit has completely disappeared in recent weeks. They went 0-for-4 versus the Panthers, 0-for-6 versus Tampa and are successful less than 12 percent of the time with the advantage in December. To understand how much of a drop that is, they were at 25 percent during the 2017-18 season, when they ranked second in the league. They're at No. 10 (23.1 percent) this season and that's with the addition of Tavares to the unit.

#hockey, #professional

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