Rick Zamperin: Maple Leafs’ bottom 6 must start pulling their weight

With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping they don’t close out the 2018-19 campaign by repeating what they just did over the last seven games.

Toronto has been victorious in only two of their last seven contests, beating Buffalo and Philadelphia (both non-playoff teams) while losing to the New York Rangers, Nashville, Ottawa, Chicago and Tampa Bay (three of which are not playoff-bound).

Entering Monday’s home game against Florida — another team that will be watching the post-season this spring — the Maple Leafs have resigned themselves to the fact that they won’t have home-ice advantage when they open the Stanley Cup playoffs next month versus the Boston Bruins.

Despite their recent struggles, the Leafs have actually played some of their best hockey of the season over the last week — a 3-0 loss to the Predators, a 4-2 win over Buffalo and Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss against the Rangers.

Toronto has outshot their last three opponents by an average of 38-24, dominated long stretches of each game and created a boatload of scoring opportunities.

The only missing link is that their scoring touch has faded. The Leafs are averaging 2.8 goals per game over their last seven outings compared to the 3.52 goals per game they have posted this season.

But don’t blame the big guns.

Over the last 10 games — a nice, round number — Toronto’s top six forwards have tallied 17 goals, including five each from Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman.

The team’s bottom six forwards have mustered only five goals in the last 10 games, three of which came from Tyler Ennis in the same game. Toronto’s defence corps has accumulated nine goals in the club’s last 10 games.

The Leafs certainly have a deep crop of talented forwards, but if they don’t get production from their bottom six, they will be shaking their heads while shaking hands with the Bruins.

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