Winning, and holding on to leads, has been the story for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the last 20 games. Well, their inability to do either of these things, anyway.
The Leafs have won 5 games in regulation over their last 20 games, sporting an 8-8-4 record in that time.
They are struggling to score, especially at even strength, and are relying on a comfortable cushion in a pathetically weak Atlantic division to keep them in the playoff race.
They hold an 11-point lead on the Florida Panthers, but have played 3 more games. That can turn into a 5-point cushion if things don't go right, and shrink even further if the losses continue to pile on.
Mike Babcock was not a happy camper following the loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, a game in which they blew a two goal lead and lost in overtime on a poor defensive miscue.
It was just the latest of disappointments for this team that showed so much promise to open the season. They still have the ability to pull things together, and with a playoff spot just about guaranteed, it's a question of putting things together on time.
The head coach has little patience for fun and games anymore, as evidenced by how he cut practice early on Friday afternoon.
Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby detailed how the practice ended after about 20 minutes, with Babcock forcing every single player off the ice immediately.
"As Friday’s practice at the Canadian Tire Centre ended, Toronto’s coach yelled at his team to get off the ice immediately instead of making his customary early exit to let the group work on individual skills or their favourite pastime of trying to out-do each other with hard shots or trick moves," Hornby explained.
"A stern Babcock stood by the gate until every Leaf was off, still ticked about how Thursday’s game in Philly had ended."
“Play at night,” he yelled, according to Hornby. “If you want to screw around, come out and do that at the optional skate tomorrow (morning). There’s lots of ice time. We didn’t want to use it last night.”
That quote from Babcock was pretty rough, let's dissect it a bit.
"Play at night" - that was a shot at the team's complete lack of effort in what should have been a regulation win for the team against the Flyers.
"If you want to screw around, come out and do that at the optional skate tomorrow" - pretty self-explanatory, he's tired of seeing the kids fool around and let their dangling and creative plays get in the way of playing structured, defensive hockey. Some poor puck handling decisions cost the team some games as of late, with Mitch Marner being responsible for making some offensive cheats that cost to goals, and losses. He's been demoted to the fourth line.
"There's lots of ice time. We didn't want to use it last night (Thursday)" - another clear jab at the team's inability to play a full 60 minutes against the Flyers.
Babcock has the right to be angry, and the Leafs players are feeling it. They take on a struggling Ottawa Senators team tonight, and at this point, it's a must-win, regardless of their position in the standings.