The Toronto Maple Leafs playoff chances are just 4.6 per cent right now, as they need to basically win out (or go 5-0-1) to have a reasonable shot at the postseason.
But the Calgary Flames would like nothing more than to drop those numbers to almost nothing.
That’s what on the line Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre, with the plucky Flames playing for pride and the downtrodden Leafs battling for their playoff lives.
While Toronto has lost eight games in regulation in a row, Calgary has been playing spoiler, going 9-7-0 in March and beating Anaheim, Dallas, San Jose and the New York Rangers in the process.
Former Leafs prospect Joe Colborne said the Flames coaching staff has put the pressure on the young team to approach this stretch as their postseason, breaking down the games into seven game series and pushing them to treat the remainder of their season as must-win games.
With only seven games left, Calgary is almost definitely going to finish in the bottom five, but little was expected of them entering the year.
“I’m not going to say anything inflammatory before the game,” said Colborne, who is third on the Flames in scoring during that stretch with 11 points in 16 games. “But any guy who comes back and plays his past team wants to have a good game. We’ve got a guy playing his first NHL game tonight (Bryce Van Brabant) and a lot of guys with family in the stands so it’ll be a special game regardless.
“We’ve been pretending we’re in series as we go. The more teams that we can beat and make it harder for them the better. That’s the only way we’re going to get as close as possible to the playoff atmosphere.”
Another former Leaf, Matt Stajan, said he could sympathize with what Toronto is going through, but that they shouldn’t expect any mercy from a team 11 points below them in the standings.
“They’re going to be a hungry team tonight and they’re probably trying everything they can to get out of it. We know the situation they’re in,” Stajan said. “We want to come in and knock them down again.”
The best hope for the Leafs at this point is that they win a lot of their games and the two teams they’re fighting with, Columbus and Washington, go into a funk to end the year.
Sportsclubstats.com gives Toronto only a 77 per cent chance of making the postseason if they run the table and win six straight, and those odds drop to just 29 per cent if they finish the year 5-1-0.
Even finishing with 89 points gives the Leafs a small chance of making it with some help (roughly 11 per cent).
Adding to the game’s intrigue is the fact that former Leafs GM Brian Burke, now the president of hockey operations for the Flames, will be in the visitors executive box for the first time since being let go at the start of the 2012-13 season.
And if anyone knows what Toronto’s going through right now, it’s Burke.