The rest of the league continued to conspire to ruin the playoff hopes of Leafs Nation yesterday. The New York Rangers dropped the Penguins with ease and the Nashville Predators waited until overtime to complete their come-from-behind victory over Buffalo. Now eight back of the Rangers (both at 73GP), and five back of Buffalo who possess a game in hand, the playoff picture has grown gloomier to the point of near impossibility in two weeks since that great 3-2 win over Philadelphia on March 3 had them within three:
Standings at March 4th:
7) Carolina Hurricanes â€“ 31 â€“ 25 â€“ 9 for 71 points in 65GP
8.) New York Rangers â€“ 33-29-4 for 70 points in 66GP
9) Buffalo Sabres â€“ 30 â€“ 25 â€“ 8 for 68 points in 63 GP
10) Toronto Maple Leafs â€“ 29-27-9 for 67 points in 65GP
Since March 4:
New York Rangers â€“ 6-1-0
Buffalo Sabres â€“ 5-3-1
Maple Leafs – 3 – 4 – 1
Carolina Hurricanes â€“ 2-4-1
The Leafs needed two of the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes to open up the door with .500 or below play. Was that an unreasonably hopeful ask? Probably, but what we got was two roughly .540 teams over the first 65 games of the season playing at a .857 and a .625 pace over the next seven and nine games respectively. Credit to the Rangers and Sabres for turning it on as they have when it matters, and ultimately the Leafs can only blame themselves after posting a 3-4-1 record in the span since that win over the Flyers. The Rangers slumped in February, the Canes are struggling in March, and the Leafs haven’t played like the consistent world beaters they needed to be to make up the ground on a once 14 point gap.
Still, itâ€™s unfortunate that, with a little more outside help, this final nine game stretch could have been a hell of a lot more interesting in Leafland.
What are your thoughts? Do the Leafs still have a shot?