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Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson (right) is congratulated by teammate Jake Gardiner after scoring on the Detroit Red Wings during first period NHL action in Toronto on Saturday, March 29, 2014. (The Canadian Press)

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson (right) is congratulated by teammate Jake Gardiner after scoring on the Detroit Red Wings during first period NHL action in Toronto on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

(The Canadian Press)

How the Maple Leafs can still make the playoffs Add to ...

There’s no question it’s a long shot.

And they’ll need some help.

But the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff hopes aren’t dead, as they can actually even get back into playoff position on Thursday night with a win over the Boston Bruins and a regulation loss by the Columbus Blue Jackets in Philadelphia.

That would put them back into eighth in the East, with a pile of teams fighting to pass them and games in hand.

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Going into Thursday’s games, the Leafs chances to make the playoffs are at just 6.9 per cent, a number that can get as high as 16.5 per cent and as low as 0.4 per cent after Thursday’s results.

Realistically, Toronto has to win at least four of its final five games to make things interesting.

If they win all five, they likely make the postseason. A 4-0-1 finish is basically a coin flip to make it and a 4-1-0 finish is about a 1-on-4 shot.

Anything less than getting to 90 points, and there’s really almost no hope.

What the Leafs have to hope here is that not only can they win four games, but the Blue Jackets (and Devils and Capitals) all struggle to close out their seasons.

Here’s a quick illustration of what record those teams need to post to allow the Leafs to finish ahead of them. This is assuming all wins are in regulation or overtime and takes into account that ROW is the first tiebreak:

If Leafs go…

Columbus
must be __ or worse

New Jersey
must be__ or worse

Washington
must be__ or worse

5-0-0
(92 points)

4-3-0

5-0-1

5-0-1

4-0-1
(91 points)

3-3-1

5-1-0

5-1-0

4-1-0
(90 points)

3-4-0

4-1-1

4-1-1

3-1-1
(89 points)

2-4-1

4-2-0

4-2-0

 

The biggest threat, in other words, is obviously Columbus, as the Jackets don’t need to be world beaters to stay ahead of Toronto, even if the Leafs play well.

If Columbus goes better than 4-3-0, the Leafs can’t catch them.

In the Leafs favour is the fact that their schedule (aside from facing the Bruins) isn’t that difficult, with three games against non-playoff teams (Winnipeg, Florida and Ottawa) and no back-to-backs.

Columbus, meanwhile, has to cram seven games into 10 days because of the makeup game in Dallas due to the Rich Peverley incident (which they’ll start up 1-0) including three back-to-back situations. They also face the Flyers, Blackhawks and Lightning, so it’s not inconceivable they lose four of those seven games.

But the Leafs three regulation losses to Columbus this season loom very large.

So it’s not a great position for Toronto. If they can string together even two more wins here, it puts pressure on the other three teams they’re battling with and makes the final week’s road trip mean something.

Two more regulation losses, however, and they’re done for sure.

“We understand where we’re at and where we need to go,” Leafs centre Nazem Kadri said on Thursday morning as his team prepared for the Bruins. “So tonight's an important building step in that direction. We've got to make sure we come out ready to go.”

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