With the All Star break behind us, weâ€™re soon entering February, also known as the second last full month of the NHL schedule, and that means a few things: it’s trade season, and it’s time to start regularly checking SportsclubStats.com. The playoff probability tracker currently puts the Leafs at a 70.5% likelihood of qualifying for the post-season, which is not bad at all considering they are not technically in a playoff spot at the moment. Itâ€™s not as good as early in the New Year, when following their four game win streak they were up over 81%, but itâ€™s certainly better than the 30.42% chance they had as of Nov. 17, following their big November slump.
Stranger things have happened (and might be happening in Anaheim), but it seems five teams in the East are looking at highly remote playoff probabilities as of the end of January – Tampa Bay, Carolina, Buffalo, the New York Islanders, and to a lesser extent Montreal.
The following are the records required from these clubs for a better than 50% shot at a playoff spot. The current playoff odds are in brackets:
Montreal (25.3%): 20-10-3
Buffalo (0.6%): 20-8-5
NYI (1.7%): 20-9-5
Carolina (0.8%): 21-7-3
Tampa Bay (5.4%): 20-10-4
The Leafs, meanwhile, require a 15-14-4 record to give themselves an odds-on chance at a playoff spot. One more win and a 16-13-4 split down the stretch would give the Leafs a near 85% likelihood of breaking their seven-season playoff drought.
It is safe to say the Leafs have not been in this good of a position leaving the All Star break since their near-misses in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. And the fact that we can likely limit the field to ten teams in contention for the top 8 (if one team goes on an unexpected surge, another will likely do the opposite.. Florida in particular seems like a team poised for a fall) does bode well for the Leafsâ€™ chances.Â I could be wrong, but it seems rare that we can tentatively write off that many teams this early.
The key for the Leafs down the stretch will be keeping pace while winning the majority of the four-point games against the likes of Winnipeg, Ottawa, New Jersey and Washington. Making gains on the Pittsburgh Penguins – who the Leafs play twice in the next two days – could bring them back into the pack as well. The Leafs play the aforementioned group of teams eleven times in the final 33 games, including the Penguins three times and the Devils, Capitals, Panthers and Senators twice apiece.
Rick Dudley stops by the Fan 590.
At one point the Leafs’ director of player personnel calls the team’s prospect group top 3 in the league.
THN’s Rumour Roundup
Lyle Richardson talks Suter, Carter, Morrow, Parise, among others.
VLM looks at how some ex-Leafs are faring
Stalberg in particular has caught my eye lately, but we can’t judge that deal until we see what becomes of Stuart Percy.
A Maple Leafs primer series: The Leaf legacy in my lifetime, starting with the 1950s
Michael Langlois’ stuff is a must read for Leafs history buffs.
The Quiet Room: Sydney Crosby’s Neck ‘Abnormality’
Joe Innes at the Backhand Shelf takes an x-ray look at Sydney Crosby’s recently surfaced neck injury.
Lupul’s road to stardom
Lots of well deserved recognition in the media this weekend for the tough path Lupul traveled to get to his current playing level. I think Joffrey is becoming a real fan favourite here; the on-ice performance obviously sets the stage, but it was obvious this weekend he’s really embraced the Maple Leaf, loves being in Toronto, and is a funny character with a feel good story to boot.
Bruins’ Seguin, Leafs’ Kessel ride together at All Star Game
Claude Julien was behind the choice to put Seguin and Kessel on a line together in yesterday’s All Star game.
Post-ASG interviews with Phaneuf, Lupul, Kessel and some highlights of their contributions are available at the Maple Leafs VideoCentre.
Lupul chipped in two goals, Kessel had a goal and two assists.