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:
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.