It’s coming right down to the wire. You have your thoughts. I have my thoughts. The roundtable has its thoughts. Are the Leafs making it through? Well..
I don’t foresee them falling right out of the playoffs in the last two games. They could conceivably lose both games this weekend and still qualify for the playoffs. The Lightning are on the second game of a back to back tonight, they’re playing the Canadiens in Montreal and Carey Price is starting. The odds are stacked against them in this one and a regulation loss would officially eliminate them from contention. The Islanders have the Devils and Senators on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Not the toughest ending to their season until you factor in that they’re missing John Tavares. As for the Leafs, they finish their season with a back to back at home and they have three points on both the Isles and Lightning. The Penguins and Blue Jackets are both locked into their playoff positions now (and will face each other in the first round) so they have nothing to play for. It will be interesting to see if they take a page out of the NBA’s book and rest some of their stars. Ultimately, the chances are pretty low that the Leafs fall right out of the playoffs, but they just might have to play the Capitals in the first round, which would be less than ideal.
Falling out of the playoffs, at this point, would be the Leaf-iest thing of all time, and that’s exactly why I think they’ll be fine. This is a franchise that has very obviously turned a corner, and isn’t even close to being the same team that blew game 7 against Boston.
Tampa Bay is in tough on the second half of a back-to-back tonight against the Habs. Sure, Montreal may have nothing left to play for, but Carey Price is getting the start, and they’ll surely want to head in to the playoffs on a high note. The Islanders are missing their best player and have two tough games left against the Devils and Sens. Isles/Devils is always ‘fun’, considering the two are rivals, and Ottawa will presumably still have something to play for, as they jockey for home-ice with the Bruins.
Honestly, I’m not too worried about picking up a win against one of the Pens/Blue Jackets. These are two teams who know exactly where they’re going to finish, and will presumably be resting their top players. Toronto’s got this.
I’ve been watching the Leafs, and plenty of sports in general, long enough to know that this team doesn’t have this in the bag by any means. And on top of that, it just seems this past year or two in particular in pro sports has been truly bizarre – the ‘impossible’ seems to happen every time you turn on the television. I’ve been on the fortunate end of this, with the Patriots comeback against the Falcons a couple months ago, so I know a collapse shaping up when I see one, and this fits the bill. [The Leafs might actually be my penance for liking New England. Sorry everyone.]
So, yeah, I think the Leafs are going to collapse here over the weekend and lose out in dramatic fashion, and the Islanders will go through. With the way the schedule shakes out for these teams fighting for that last spot, this isn’t a far-fetched scenario at all. I’ll be absolutely crushed when this unfolds, and likely avoid any kind of social media until at least May, maybe right up until the draft
I completely understand why Leafs fans are so nervous right now. Over the last decade, we’ve been conditioned to think of the worst-case scenario for this team…and still have them manage to let us down at the last moment. With that being said, I’m not nearly as worried as I would’ve been in past years. This team isn’t relying on unsustainable luck to win, its systems aren’t designed by Randy Carlyle, and they’re not being backstopped by Toskala, Gustavsson, or Raycroft
We’re seeing a much different Leafs team this year than we’ve seen in recent years. They’re top 10 in the league in both shot differentials & expected goal differentials, coached by arguably the best in the world in Mike Babcock, and getting excellent goaltending from Frederik Andersen. They have three U21 rookies with over 60 points, despite playing in the lowest scoring era in NHL history. They’ve gone 1-8 in shootouts this year, but despite this horrible luck, still have a 91.4% chance of making the playoffs going into game 81. So to answer the question yes I’m a little bit worried – 8.6% worried.