The Maple Leafs earned an uplifting 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night to a thunderous ovation from the ACC faithful. While the Leafs live to fight another day, the odds are still heavily stacked against their favour and they will have to hope the Sabres begin to wilt underneath the added pressure starting tonight against the Rangers.
Led by a three-point performance from Clarke MacArthur, Nazem Kadri's best game in a Leaf uniform and an energized Dion Phaneuf, the blue andÂ white dropped the Sabres for the third consecutive time in the span of about a month. While the Sabres are still five points ahead of the Leafs with a game in hand, admirably this Leafs hasn't seemed to have gotten the memo about their season being over, and do maintain a slim chance of crawling back into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference if they can start getting a few favours. [more…]
It certainly felt like the Leafs allowed their final playoff hopes to slip with their loss to Detroit on Saturday. The Sabres won and the Leafs failed to keep pace, but really it has been Buffalo and New York's red-hot play since the calendar turned March that has provided the nails to the coffin on the Leafs season. Estimates at one stage had the eighth placed team in the East finishing below 90 points. Now, the Sabres would only need to play at .500 through their final seven to make it to 92. We could be seeing the final team in the East at 94 points come mid April.
With 78 points through 76 games, the Leafs are sitting 21st in the league and could realistically climb as high as 19th, bumping the Bruins' draft choice out of the top ten. They could surpass Carolina and Minnesota with a good final six, while staying ahead of St. Louis, Columbus (both at 77 points & each with a game in hand) and Atlanta (76 points). A poor final six could drop the Leafs as low as 23rd and put the Bruins as high as seventh in the draft order. [more…]
The Leafs entered last week with the hope of winning at least two of the three games on their Western road trip. They were successful in accomplishing that goal, however last night's loss to the Detroit Red Wings put the team into a very difficult position heading into the final stretch of the regular season. In order to have a realistic chance of making the post season, Toronto will likely have to win all six of their remaining games and pray that the Buffalo Sabres hit a dead end and win two or fewer of their games.
Considering the season-long brilliance displayed by Ryan Miller, and major offensive contributions from Thomas Vanek and sophomore forward Tyler Ennis, the Sabres will have to suffer a significant blow such as an injury or losing streak to lose hold of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Brian Burke stated prior to the start of the season thatÂ the primaryÂ goal was to make the playoffs. With yet another season set to wrap up in mid April, the city of Toronto is not filled with negativity and frustration, but rather a sense of optimism and promise that the Leafs have madeÂ significant strides towards building a contending team in theÂ very nearÂ future.
Links after the jump.
The Maple Leafs visit the Joe Louis Arena in the only meeting of the season against anÂ original six rival in the Detroit Red Wings. Coming off their third-straight win after a victory in Colorado on Thursday, tonight's game is the next step in the attempt to more or less run the board and climb into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference.Â Despite being second in the West, the Red Wings have struggled in the month of March, going 4-4-3 in their last 11, including two losses in regulation and an overtime loss, in their last three games.
Toronto is looking to capitalize on the Red Wings glut of injuries. DetroitÂ will beÂ without leading offensive forwardsÂ Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Todd BertuzziÂ (back) and Johan Franzen (groin). With a 16-7-4 overall record and a 12-3-1 road record when James Reimer is between the pipes, the Leafs have been one of the top three teams since the all star break, behind only the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils. In order to prove up to making the playoffs, let alone to competing in them, Toronto needs to be able to beat the best. Let's hope the continued lack of outside help hasn't taken some of the wind out of the Leafs' collective sail, as the state of Florida failed the Leafs last night with Carolina and Buffalo wins over Tampa Bay and the Panthers.
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With a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche last night, the Leafs have moved into a tie with the Carolina Hurricanes for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, putting them three back of the Buffalo Sabres, whoÂ sit in eighth with two games in hand. Based on the past few seasons, the minimum number of points needed to qualify for the playoffs falls between 90 and 92 points. In order to reach that mark, the Leafs must win at least six of their final seven games. The goal heading into this west coast road trip was to collect four out of a possible six points, which has already been accomplished, so earning at least one point in Detroit on Saturday will be a major bonus for the team.
James Reimer is clearly the engine that drives the Leafsâ€™ success, however there is one player in particular who hasnâ€™t garnered nearly the amount of attention that he deserves based on his play this season. With spotlight shining on Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and of course Phil Kessel, there has been less talk of Nikolai Kulemin and his under the radar performance. With two goals last night, he has moved within two tallies of the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. The 25-year old forward hasÂ not only set a career high in goals (28), assists (26)Â and overall points (54), but he has also been one of the team's best penalty killers.
Check out your Leafs Links after the jump.