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Leafs clinch playoff spot for third straight year, will play Bruins in opening round

It should come as no surprise to many that the Leafs are going to be a playoff team this spring. Tonight made it official, as Toronto beat the Islanders and clinched at least third place in the Atlantic, putting 7 points between them and the Canadiens, with Montreal sitting at three games remaining.

Look, it goes without saying it’s been a bit of a strange season. With the addition of John Tavares last summer and some more steps forward by the existing core of the Leafs, most expected the team to breeze by their 105-point output from last year. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards, and this team is staring down the barrel of the Bruins in the opening round with Boston very likely holding home ice once again. Things perhaps haven’t turned out as nicely as many would have thought.

But let’s take a step back from the minor concerns for a minute, and recognize that in, what I would consider the Auston Matthews Era, Toronto has made good on getting to the postseason in each of the first three years. Ever since the kids with all the promise – Matthews, Marner, and Nylander – arrived and took this team over, the Leafs haven’t really wasted any of that potential and have consistently given fans something to get excited about when the days start getting longer. Appreciate that for what it is, especially in contrast to a situation like that in Edmonton or Buffalo, where major talent is being left out on an island. This is a good team and these are good times for fans.

With all that said, again, this was no shock, as expectations were sky high for this team going back as far as last July. To a point, they’ve delivered on that. The Leafs are one of the best five teams in the league, even if their place in the standings is a little tight to the mid-pack, and their offence can come alive at any moment to bury an opponent.

But you don’t want to hear too much more about the regular season. It’s nearly playoff time again, and Toronto’s in the dance. Flags on cars, Maple Leaf Square, it’s the best you can ask for as a fan of the blue and white. It’s a bit preliminary, but reports have circulated that should the Leafs open up their series against the Bruins in Boston (they will), game one goes next Thursday night, April 11th.

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