Two Huge Games

Two Huge Games

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It’s a simple question with a scary answer: how important are the next two games to the Toronto Maple Leafs? The Leafs are kicking of a stretch of five games in seven nights tonight in Carolina, one of their busiest portions of their season. The Leafs have held playoff positioning all season, but months of mediocre play have whittled its foothold in the East’s hierarchy. While it’s impossible to say that these are the two most important games of the Leafs season, it could very well be the two most important games of the season so far.

In the next two nights, the Leafs have an astonishing opportunity within their grasp. By tomorrow night, the 8th seed Leafs could climb to as high as 5th in the Eastern Conference standings. Or fall as low as 10th. Here’s how:

Current standings, (teams 5-11 in the Eastern conference) prior to games Thursday night:

Current Standings

Flyers: 50 points
44 games played
20 ROW
Rangers: 47 points45 games played19 ROW
Redwings: 48 points43 games played18 ROW
Leafs: 47 points44 games played14 ROW
Capitals: 46 points42 games played12 ROW
Ottawa: 46 points45 games played18 ROW
Hurricanes: 45 points43 games played18 ROW

Best case Scenario by end-of-play Friday night:

Leafs: 51 points
46 games played
16 ROW
Flyers: 50 points44 games played20 ROW
Red Wings: 48 points44 games played18 ROW
Rangers: 47 points46 games played19 ROW
Capitals: 46 points44 games played12 ROW
Senators: 46 points45 games played18 ROW
Hurricanes: 45 points45 games played18 ROW

Worst case scenario by end-of-play Friday night:

Flyers: 50 points
44 games played
20 ROW
Red Wings: 50 points44 games played19 ROW
Capitals: 50 points44 games played14 ROW
Hurricanes: 49 points45 games played20 ROW
Rangers: 49 points46 games played20 ROW
Leafs: 47 points46 games played14 ROW
Senators: 46 points45 games played18 ROW

The Leafs take to the road against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals tonight and Friday night. With wins in both games, the club would be sitting pretty with 51 points. By defeating both Washington and Carolina in regulation, the Leafs would put its closest competitors for the last wild card position as many as six points back.

This becomes increasingly important when looking at the next two items in each line. The Leafs, by tomorrow night, will have played more games than all of their direct competition save for the Rangers. The Flyers, Red Wings, and Capitals will all have two games in hand on the Leafs. The Hurricanes and Senators each have one game in hand. It would be especially brutal for the Leafs to cough up loser points to either the Capitals or Hurricanes given those conditions.

The Leafs also happen to have the second lowest ROW (Regulation/Overtime Wins) score of the above seven teams. ROW is used to calculate the tie breaker. Factored in with the Leafs having played through more of their schedule than their competition, the Leafs 51 points is actually mightily handicapped. While the shootout has been good to the Leafs, it’s not exactly stifling the competitions’ chances at surpassing the Leafs for a final playoff spot.

Of course, the real results will probably be something in between the aforementioned ‘best’ and ‘worst’ case scenarios. Even though the matchups seem to favour the Leafs’ chances, it’s still only just that. Detroit could beat San Jose, Washington could beat Tampa, and Carolina probably will beat Columbus. But the Leafs can still get to 5th place in the East under those conditions with two wins.

Scoreboard watching is almost exclusively a depressing task, because you have to rely on so many teams losing. Just last night, the Leafs would have most benefited from Ottawa, New York and Philadelphia not earning a single. They earned a combined five points.

But what does remain clear is that the Leafs still have a measure of its destiny in its hands. The Leafs can impact two of their direct competitors in a little more than 24 hour period, and keep their head above water in the playoff chase. A small respite for a team that’s been gasping for two months now.

But it’s all right in front of them. All they have to do is win the next two games in regulation (ideally) or overtime. Something they haven’t done since November 19th, 2013.

Michael Stephens has been writing for Maple Leafs Hotstove since 2010, and has featured in the 2010 and 2012 Maple Leaf Annuals. Former Editiorial Intern at The Hockey News. Undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor. Chat me up about all things hockey on twitter @MLHS_Mike
283 comments
mlclearwater
mlclearwater

Does Hollands games towards the conditional pick include playoffs? If we make it.....

mlclearwater
mlclearwater

Odd how Carlyle is quoted as saying 'playing 4th line centre was stunting Hollands development curve" yet he brings in a younger winger in Ashton and puts him on the 4th C. WTF

mikeintokyo
mikeintokyo

which "clark" wouldyoulike on the leafs now?  Clarke macarthur or david Clarkson?

wendelsway1
wendelsway1

@mlclearwater He's a more physical player than Holland is and perhaps they have Ashton projected as a bottom six player

bbirde
bbirde

@mlclearwaterI think he means that Holland is more suited to play up the lineup where as Ashton will be bottom 6.

NotSince67
NotSince67

@mlclearwater IT's probably coz Ashton doesn't project past a checking line winger, Holland does have to opportunity to be a point producer, and he's not gonna learn that craft playing 4 mins a night.

NotSince67
NotSince67

@rustynail The blacklisting continues... (There was arumour back in BUF that Nolan was sleeping with someone [a player I believe] wife. Whoever was GM at the time was able to get other GMs to blacklist him and stay away. Hence, why he was unable to find another job)

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

Didn't take long for this guy to get engulfed in a controversy

dlb Mad
dlb Mad

@Jmessih

we haven't seen Raymond in the playoffs but when he was trying to earn a contract he battled well enough.

the rest on this list don't hurt the team toughness.  a team like Ottawa plays physical and when you run down their list of players you quickly note Smith and Neal and some defensemen as being the reason why.  not Spezza, Ryan and MacArthur.

it's s stupid comment.  Stamkos, Kane, Malkin and Keith are all soft too then.

Greg Fenton
Greg Fenton

@Jmessih I agree with the sentiment, but why include van Riemsdyk? He hasn't be playing soft. 

NotSince67
NotSince67

@Jmessih Kadri is kinda known for playing with an edge... Sorry guys. (I'm not big on hope smoke over his arrogant exchange with Ferraro.)

lukethenuke
lukethenuke

@mikeintokyo cmon man it hurts enough seeing him rip it up and ours defending waterbottles as his highlight

mlclearwater
mlclearwater

@Murph2417 @mlclearwater Looks like we traded our 2nd twice there. I know LA has the option of 14 or 15 but what is they want 14 and Holland plays over 25 games?

mlclearwater
mlclearwater

@Jmessih @mlclearwater Yes and Holland ahs already spent 3-4 years back and forth in the Ahl, but i get your point and am actually happy we did it so we may not lose our 2nd. He couldve tried not playing McL 20 mins a night and giving those to Holland also


loomx
loomx

@Jmessih @rustynail I think the point he's trying to make is "I was never told if I take this job I have to keep Ted Nolan. It's my choice to keep him."

mikeintokyo
mikeintokyo

@lukethenuke @mikeintokyo it hurts a lot ....maybe he should start driving to games in a big ass car and stop pretending that he's just like one of us ....the bastard rubbing it in...look I sit on the subway and im making 100 times you and your entire family will ever earn in a lifetime...wrong message....

mlclearwater
mlclearwater

@rustynail @NotSince67 @mlclearwater she did look a little off eh. Funny all her ads and shows she lloks hot but you can't see the goooodddsss but than you can see the goooodddsss but she doesnt looks as hot. Christ I feel like a real leaf fan, grass is always greener

dlb Mad
dlb Mad

@NotSince67

last game, after he had his pocket pickd by JT, Carlyle gave him a chance and i thought Naz picked it up and played well.

even without getting on the score sheet he looked to care.  the effort was there, and that's how you get the mojo back.

Bruffins
Bruffins

@NotSince67 @Bruffins @Jmessih 

yeah been a tough year on the guy for sure, they were really close. Really hope they don;t trade him before he gets it back. I think he has the attitude to succeed in Toronto. Hopefully he builds off his solid game on Tuesday

dlb Mad
dlb Mad

@NotSince67

he's Jagr soft, or Sundin soft.  with talent and size, let others bring the sandpaper.  JVR can be soft and still a load to play against that doesn't hurt the team's overall toughness.

KingTon
KingTon

@lukethenuke @KingTon @mikeintokyo I honestly don't think he would have played exceptionally well for us though.  He's probably still playing with a chip on his shoulder trying to proove leaf management they were wrong.