Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Playoff March: Game 69 Checkpoint

THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Toronto Maple Leafs managed to earn three out of six points this past week but should have done more. They started the week with an overtime loss to the lowly New York Islanders at home, then lost to a reeling Philadelphia Flyers team. The Leafs salvaged a win at home against the Buffalo Sabres last night, but they had to come from behind in the third period to earn the two points.

THE PATH TO 88 POINTS: With 13 games left in the regular season, the Leafs need to earn 18 points. Time is running short for them to climb past the Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers for the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Leafs can get to 88 points if they go 9-4-0 or 8-3-2. Super rookie James Reimer is now the unquestioned number one goalie but he cannot play the rest of the string without a break. At some point, either Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Jonas Gustafsson will have to make a spot start to spell him so he doesn’t wear down in these final weeks.

THE COMING WEEK: The Leafs have four games on tap this week and they must get at least six point to realistically stay in the playoff race. Their week begins with a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are 1-4-2 this month. Wednesday ushers in back-to-back road games against the Carolina Hurricanes and then the Florida Panthers. The Leafs end the week with a home game against the Boston Bruins.

Realistically, the Lightning and the Hurricanes represent the Leafs’ best chance to pick up points. The Panthers have been playing well the past week and the Bruins can’t be expected to continue their current losing streak, which as of today stands at four games.


IN MEMORIAM: I’m saddened to hear of the loss of former Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings winger Rick Martin, who died of a heart attack today. Not only was he a seven-time All-Star for the Sabres, but through no fault of his own was a symbol of why the Kings were so bad during the 80’s until the arrival of Wayne Gretzky. Coming off what turned out to be a career-ending knee injury, Martin was traded late in the 1980-81 season to the Kings for a 1981 third round choice plus a 1983 first round choice.

Martin played four games for the Kings, one during the 1980-81 season and three more the following season before he was forced to retire in mid-December 1981. In those four games, Martin scored five points and would have been a welcome addition to the Kings had he been healthy.

As for that 1983 first round draft pick, the Sabres used it to select Tom Barrasso, who would have solved the Kings goaltending problems after Mario Lessard was forced to retire himself after suffering a knee injury.

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