According to his projections following Sunday’s games, James Mirtle puts the Eastern Conference playoff cutoff at 92 points as of the current conditions in the East. James has the Leafs needing to go 15-11 in order to reach eighth. The good news is that a clear top nine is developing as we embark on the stretch drive; meaning, unless the Habs parlay their current four game winning streak into a late season tear over their final 26, the Leafs simply have to outstrip one of Ottawa, Washington, Florida, or New Jersey. Ottawa, Washington and Toronto in particular require pretty much the same winning percentage (58%) to reach 92 points, while Florida and New Jersey merely have to play .500 hockey to make it:
1) N.Y. Rangers – 7-20-1
2) Boston – 11-18-0
3) Philadelphia – 11-14-1
4) Pittsburgh – 11-14-1
5) New Jersey – 13-14-0
6) Florida – 13-13-1
7) Washington – 15-11-1
8.) Toronto – 15-11-0
9) Ottawa – 14-10-0
10) Winnipeg – 17-8-0
11) Montreal – 18-7-1
12) Tampa Bay – 19-8-0
13) N.Y. Islanders – 19-8-0
14) Buffalo – 19-8-0
15) Carolina – 20-5-1
The Leafs’ closest competition appears to be Ottawa and Washington at this point (though much can change), and they do have an edge on Ottawa at this point. The Senators are two points ahead with two less games to play, and sit with only 23 regulation+overtime wins (the first tiebreaker).
We’ve seen this team at its best and this team at its worst in the last three weeks. They won five of six, then turned around and lost three straight, including an ugly 5-0 loss at home to the Habs.
Indeed, it’s been hard to get a grip on where this team stands given its streakiness since the New Year (they followed up four straight wins by losing four of five in January). I’d summarize it this way; it’sÂ a young team that, as currently constituted, lives and dies by the effectiveness of its speed game and the hot- or coldness of its goaltending. If Burke can find a way to add some variety to a small, heavily speed and skill oriented forward group, even through the third line, it could give the team a needed boost down the stretch. And they’ll have to hope Gustavsson or Reimer, whoever is playing that night, gives them a chance to win more often than not.
I’ll turn this over to you guys: Do the Leafs have what it takes to collect 30 points over their final 26?
Transcript over at The Leafs Nation.
From Vintage Leaf Memories.
Leafs travel to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver this week.
We need San Jose, coming off a shutout loss to St. Louis, to beat Washington, and Carolina to quiet down the Habs before they get any ideas.