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By the Numbers: Maple Leafs struggling to win in regulation

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner Mitchell Marner - The Canadian Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit in a playoff spot despite being tied for the fewest regulation wins in the NHL this season. 

Of the 12 wins the Maple Leafs have, just five have been earned inside 60 minutes. Within the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens, who have played three more games than Toronto, also have five regulation wins, while no other team has fewer than seven. The Chicago Blackhawks, who are last in the NHL with 15 points, and the Seattle Kraken, who are 26th in the league with 22 points, also have five regulation wins. 

Among teams currently in a playoff spot entering play Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers have the next fewest regulation wins with nine. 

Toronto has gone to overtime in exactly half of their 22 games so far this season. The team has picked up seven wins in those 11 games, including four wins in their five games that have gone to a shootout.

The Maple Leafs earned 42 of their 50 wins last season within regulation, with just one shootout win in three games that went the distance. 

The tight margin of victory has the Maple Leafs sitting with a plus-2 goal differential, which ranks eighth in the conference and 15th in the league. Toronto holds at least a game in hand on most teams in the conference, with only the Ottawa Senators, who will play their 21st game of the season when they host the Maple Leafs on Thursday, having played fewer games.

The Maple Leafs have gone to overtime in five of their past six games, falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 25 in the lone contest during the stretch decided in regulation. The six games have all been relatively low scoring, with no more than three goals scored or allowed by the Maple Leafs in regulation. 

Team president Brendan Shanahan told TSN's Gino Reda on Monday that, in a glass-half-full outlook, the stats also show the Maple Leafs have been a tough team to beat. Toronto's six regulation losses is the fifth lowest total in the league. 

Shanahan said that while closing out games could be an area of improvement for Toronto, the team has also shown resiliency in fighting back to force the extra frame when trailing. The Maple Leafs erased a two-goal second-period deficit against the Boston Bruins on Saturday and scored with six seconds left to tie the game at 3-3 before falling in overtime.

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General manager Brad Treliving gave a similar outlook when speaking on OverDrive on TSN 1050 Toronto Wednesday.

"You would like to win them all 5-1 in regulation and put your feet up in the third, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way," Treliving said. "I look at it two ways. Number one, we have been able to bank points. We are not giving any of them back. But you also can’t look at it as though things are perfect.

"We certainly have things to clean up. You take the positives out of it. We've been able to find some points. In some ways, we have been resilient. If you look at last Saturday, we came from behind. In some games, we pissed away some points in terms of letting teams back into it and then maybe even we get it in OT or the shootout, but we made it more difficult than it should’ve been.

"I’d like us just to be a lot tighter defensively. Our team has enough people who can score. Sheldon and his staff are working on it and our group is aware of it. We just have to be a little cleaner defensively. We shouldn’t need four every night to win a game.

"You see that in teams who are competing late in the spring. You need to score, and that is always an emphasis. We want to make sure we have enough offence here, but to me, a lot of our issues have been being a little too loose defensively or giving up a few too many chances. Taking away a little more space and being harder to play against in terms of suffocating teams a little bit more - those are the areas we need to focus on.

"We will take the points that we have gotten, but certainly, there are areas we know we have to and can be better in."

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Leafs begin busy stretch into holiday break

Thursday's game against the Senators will begin a stretch of nine games in 17 days leading into the holiday break for the Maple Leafs. 

After enjoying a five-day break following Saturday's loss the Bruins, the Maple Leafs will have just one three-day break during their upcoming slate. 

A home date Saturday against the Nashville Predators will follow after Thursday's contest before a set of back-to-back games on the road against the New York Islanders on Monday and New York Rangers on Tuesday.