Ben Smith keeps Toronto alive with buzzer-beating goal

Cam Charron
April 04 2014 11:15PM

It's not exactly like us to write about other teams here, but the playoff chase has gotten extremely interesting. Columbus and Chicago played a back and forth game that was knotted at 3 when Smith broke the hearts of the Blue Jackets announcers, tucking in a backhander on a mad scramble with 4 seconds left on the clock.

This is good news for Toronto, particularly since the rest of the out-of-town scoreboard wasn't favourable to Toronto. The Leafs can get, at most, 92 points, and forcing OT would have given Columbus 86 with 5 games to play. Now, they go from needing a 3-2-1 record to needing a 3-1-1 record to clinch a standings berth ahead of Toronto (a tie goes to Columbus—the Leafs cannot pass the Blue Jackets in regulation or overtime wins).

The rest of it though isn't great news:

nhl standings april 4

New Jersey defeated Washington, which is bad news because the Devils hold the tiebreaker on the Leafs where the Capitals don't, and the Devils can surpass the Leafs by winning their game in hand. Detroit also held on against Buffalo, giving them 88 points and another marker in the ROW column: two non-shootout victories in the last five games will mean the Red Wings will finish ahead of the Maple Leafs.

Should Toronto run the table, the Jackets need six points or worse (if Toronto run the table, New Jersey would have to do so as well, so they aren't worth discussing in this scenario) in their final five, which is certainly a plausible scenario.

Here's the Jackets' remaining schedule:

Sunday vs. NY Islanders

Tuesday vs. Phoenix

Wednesday @ Dallas

Friday @ Tampa Bay

Saturday @ Florida

Like the Leafs, the Jackets play their final three games on the road, and the Leafs are helped by the fact that the Jackets have to play two back-to-back games still. However, the Islanders play Saturday, so they'll be the tired team in the second half of a back-to-back, and Tampa Bay plays on the Thursday against Philadelphia.

Also keep in mind that Columbus has a 1-0 lead already in that game against Dallas, which was stopped when Rich Peverley's heart stopped earlier this season. The teams will play a full 60 minutes, however.

Detroit plays the following games:

Saturday @ Montreal

Tuesday @ Buffalo

Wednesday @ Pittsburgh

Friday vs. Carolina

Sunday @ St. Louis

Both the Wings and Habs will be tired on the second halves of back-to-backs Saturday, but with Detroit on the road (and facing Carey Price) they'll be on the disadvantage. That game against Pittsburgh looks plenty tough as well, but Carolina play Washington Thursday. I think there are two wins in here for Detroit somewhere.

New Jersey has the following schedule:

Saturday @ Carolina

Monday vs. Calgary

Thursday @ Ottawa

Friday vs. NY Islanders

Sunday vs. Buffalo

The Devils have by far the easiest schedule of the four teams with a shot, which is a good thing for them, since they need to win all of them. Aside from tomorrow's game in Carolina, which could be tough, the only back-to-back is a home affair against the Islanders, who have to play in Montreal on the Thursday, so they'll be tired and on the road as well. The Devils also get to close against Buffalo.

So, there we have it. Sportsclubstats has Toronto with a 12.1% chance to make the playoffs, through Friday's games, and a combination Leafs/Habs/Canes win increases that to 20.8%.

I am saying there's a chance, which is why I wasn't waving the white flag after the eight-game losing streak. We have yet to see the craziest moment of the season, I figure, and a six-game win streak following an eight-game losing streak would be so perfectly 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs that I can't discount that possibility at all.

But, uh, Ben Smith made this thing very interesting, since Columbus has a real important point snatched away from them with just seconds on the clock.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Jeremy Ian
April 05 2014, 05:59AM
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Hat's off to you for -- in spite of your willingness to critique the team -- holding out for an interesting final run.

Cam, what's your take on Stromboulopoulos's conversation with Tim Leiweke?

http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2014/04/04/tim-leiweke-on-george-stroumboulopoulos-tonight/

PS: Even a piece in this morning's New York Times about the Leaf drama. First the mayor, now this....

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#2 Reimerfan
April 05 2014, 06:18AM
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INTERESTING STATS!!! I hope it all works out for you Leaf Fans,,,,,,,,,,,

Just thought I would throw in the irony of the situration that this organization faces...the one person that has been crapfest on by everyone as in Nonis, RC, team, some god awful fans yaddya yadda now lies with him to ask him to put all that he has gone through his wife included to the side and go out there and save our butts again this year...to wear your last few games with this Leafs organization riding on your shoulders and do what needs to be done for our sakes... OH THE IRONY..............

If RC had not pushed Bernier so hard and played him as much as he did and if he had not played him in the LA KINGS game with a already mentioned injury and had giving some more of the work load to Reims instead of letting him rot on the bench guess what I really beleive this would have been a better story/endingm also if the team had taking the time to compete a full 60 minutes in each game as Reims and Bernier had to do again a better posistion would this team be in....

Reims was awsome coming in cold like that agasint Boston and saving this team once again...sorry Bernier got knowcked by his own team mate...But being who Reims is,,,he comes out with a positive outlook and rallies for his team and fans and still shows the love and passion for his team and wants to come out and work and win for everyone not just himself.......he plays not just for everyone he pkays for his career and needs this as much as you all do....and his words regarding Bernier was again great person and respect he had for his teammate and friend is great...I hope the team means what they say and work and rally in front of Reims on these last few games and together maybe pull out the impossible and this becaomes a storybook beginning and ending.

GOOD LUCK TONIGHT REIMS!!!! Luv ya and behind u all the way........you can do this I know you can.....always have been your biggest fan...God Bless

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