Last night was a good night on the out of town scoreboard for the Leafs. The Sens, Isles, Rangers, Habs and Bruins all played and only the Islanders collected a point. This puts the Leafs in control over their own home ice destiny, now four points back of the Habs with a game in hand and a meeting against Montreal left on the schedule. To me, there’s no question, Montreal is the ideal first round opponent given a) how the Leafs have matched up against them and b) they appear to be slumping at the worst possible time.
The Leafs have a chance here to feel good about themselves with wins against the bottom two teams in the Eastern Conference in the next 24 hours. Randy Carlyle is doing a smart thing by getting all of his players into game action ahead of the post-season in this back to back set, as he will reportedly ice a fourth line of Joe Colborne, Matt Frattin and Clarke MacArthur tonight. This should help keep the players who have been in and out of the press box sharp while giving Carlyle the ability to roll four lines and reduce the workload for the big guns. And a nice looking four lines it is:
After some time off catching sharks and playing golf in Florida, and with his team facing two of the league’s worst teams already having clinched the playoff spot, it will be interesting to see if Carlyle can keep the intensity where it needs to be over the next two games. As Carlyle put it, teams have to ramp it up another 20% to hit playoff intensity and it’s always best to be playing well and feeling good about yourselves before entering the big dance. With the results from last night, there’s plenty left to play for. Technically, the division title isn’t out of the Leafs’ reach with their advantage in Regulation and Overtime Wins. If not, home ice for round 1 is very much up for grabs if the Leafs finish strong.