It’s a slim chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless.
With a five point cushion over the eighth and ninth place teams at the moment, the Toronto Maple Leafs are probably safe with just four games to play.
But after three horrible games in a row (including one they managed to win), there’s an air of panic around the fan base over whether or not history could repeat with another collapse.
Is that justified? Not particularly.
In order for the Leafs to fall out of the postseason, all five of these teams would have to pass them in the final 10 days of the season: the Ottawa Senators (who Toronto face on Saturday), New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets.
If the Leafs can pick up three or more points in their final four games, this isn’t an issue, as they should easily qualify. Teams just aren’t missing the playoff this season with 56 or more points, especially those with as many regulation/overtime wins as Toronto has.
But if we assume Ottawa can pass them, given they have a game in hand, the table below sets out the record the other four teams would need to pass Toronto:
If the Leafs go…
1-3-0 for 55 pts
0-2-2 for 55 pts
0-3-1 for 54 pts
0-4-0 for 53 pts
(Of note: This presumes that all of the wins above are in regulation or overtime, as shootout wins change the tiebreak situations. The first tiebreak at the end of the season will be regulation or overtime wins.)
In short, that’s a lot that has to go right for those four teams in order for Toronto to be bumped out, especially when you consider some of these teams play each other down the stretch.
But obviously the most dire situation for the Leafs is if they fail to win one of their remaining games. If Toronto fails to pick up a point, sportsclubstats.com has their odds of making the playoffs falling to 91 per cent.
If they grab even a single point, that jumps to 98 per cent.
The bigger concern right now should be how far the Leafs can fall. The Senators can bump Toronto to sixth in the East with a regulation or overtime win on Saturday and two more regulation losses after that would suddenly make seventh more likely than sixth.
(The Leafs final three games of the year involve two on the road against Tampa and Florida before the finale at home versus Montreal.)
There are also a few scenarios where the Leafs could drop all the way to eighth, which would mean a date with the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1.
Either way, the sooner they end their losing skid, the better.