THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Leafs did everything possible to keep their slim playoff hopes alive by going 3-0-0. They started the week with a much-needed win in regulation against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, then traveled to Boston and surprisingly beat the Bruins on Thursday night. The Leafs ended the week with a convincing 4-2 win against the hated Ottawa Senators in this season’s final installment of The Battle of Ontario.
THE PATH TO 90 POINTS: The Leafs still need to win all three of their remaining games to reach 90 points, but even if they succeed in beating the Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens this week it may not be good enough to clinch a playoff spot. The Leafs need divine intervention at this point – and I don’t mean three James Reimer shutouts in a row.
The Sabres have four games to earn three points and reach 91 points. The New York Rangers, who currently hold down eighth place in the Eastern Conference, only need four points in four games to get to 91 points. The Carolina Hurricanes, who are in ninth place, need five points in four games to reach 91 points. If two of these teams accomplish that in the coming week then the Leafs will once again be on the outside looking in when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 14th.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The next twenty-four hours will likely determine the Leafs fate. This morning (for me) the Rangers play a Philadelphia Flyers team that’s struggling to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Atlantic Division lead. Later in the day the Sabres and Hurricanes face each other in Raleigh.
The worst case scenario would be the Rangers and Sabres winning, with the Hurricanes picking up the “pity point” for losing in overtime, which would make the Eastern Conference look like this on Monday morning:
If this happened, then it could all come down to a Monday night game between the Bruins and the Rangers. If the Rangers win, that would give them 91 points and leave the Sabres as the only “playoff” team the Leafs could catch in the standings. Considering the Sabres play the Tampa Bay Lightning, Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets later in the week it should be too hard for them to reach 91 points and knock the Leafs out of the playoffs.
I think the Leafs could win their three remaining games, but as I demonstrated above it’s going to take a miracle to make the playoffs regardless of what they do.