Clinching scenarios: Boston Bruins still a possible first round opponent for Maple Leafs ahead of final games

Photo credit:Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
11 days ago
Don’t look now, but there’s still a chance that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will face off in the first round of the 2024 NHL Playoffs.
Unlike the past couple of years, when the Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning were pretty much deadlocked as a first-round matchup by the time Christmas rolled around, it’s coming down to the wire in 2023-24. The Bruins currently hold the top spot in the Atlantic Division, but after dropping two of their last three games, the second-place Florida Panthers are only one point behind them. Both teams only have one game remaining.
Seeing that the only thing standing in the way of the Bruins clinching the Atlantic Division is a win against the 76-point Ottawa Senators, you would think that the Leafs and Panthers is a safe bet for the first round, but the reality is, anything can happen at this time of year. Whether or not the Bruins will be resting any key players against Ottawa tonight is unknown, but the Senators would probably love to end their season on a high note against one of the best teams in the league, and simultaneously, I’m sure the Bruins wouldn’t be heartbroken if they slipped back a spot to face a team they’ve historically walked all over in the postseason.
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer. Tonight is going to be a big night in hockey, so let’s go down the list of clinching scenarios that will determine who the Leafs play in Round 1.
  • Boston defeats Ottawa in regulation or overtime/shootout
  • Toronto defeats Florida in regulation
  • Ottawa defeats Boston in overtime/shootout and Toronto defeats Florida in regulation
  • Ottawa defeats Boston in regulation or overtime/shootout and Florida defeats Toronto in overtime/shootout
  • Ottawa defeats Boston in regulation and Toronto defeats Florida in overtime/shootout
Let it be known that only one of the scenarios under each possibility needs to happen. So, if Boston wins at all tonight, the Leafs will get the Panthers in Round 1. That said, all Florida has to do to claim first place in the division is gain a single point on the Bruins. The Panthers have more regulation wins, giving them the tiebreaker if the two teams end up with the same amount of points this season.
It’s pretty simple for the Leafs – if they want to avoid a date with their biggest demons, they simply need to show up and defeat the Panthers in regulation. If they let Florida take anything away from the victory, even a measly point, then their first-round opponent lies in the hands of the Bruins/Senators game tonight.
Either way, we will know by Wednesday morning whether the Leafs will be facing a familiar old foe or a more recent foe. Buckle up.

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