Game Preview: (We don't want the Pens) Toronto Maple Leafs v.s. Tampa Bay Lightning
We don’t want to play the Pens. Repeat that again. We don’t want to play the Pens.
There is still a lot on the line heading into tonight's game for the Maple Leafs.
If the fifth place Leafs fail to win any of their last three games, we could possibly finish in eighth place. We don’t want that to happen.
That would mean playing the Pens in the first round. We don’t want that to happen.
If we lose our last three games, and those below us right now – the NYI (6), Sens (7) and Rangers (8) - all win their remaining games, we drop from fifth place to eighth.
On the other hand, a single win for the Leafs would guarantee we don’t finish in eighth. There’s still a lot on the line tonight!
And also consider this…the Leafs can fight for fourth and home ice advantage, or even take shot at winning their division to finish second in their conference, by winning their last three games.
(For that, we would just need help from Boston and Montreal, who would need to lose some games - we play Montreal on Saturday. Break down of those high hopes are below by Star reporter Bob Mitchell.)
But back to reality and more pressing matters – the Leafs need at least one win and we can easily get it either tonight or tomorrow.
We got Tampa tonight and Florida tomorrow. These are the bottom two teams in our conference, 14th for Tampa and 15th for Florida. We can win these.
We’re 1-1 against Tampa this season and 2-0 against Florida. Winning at least one of those games would be a great relief.
Winning both could possibly put the Leafs in a great position come Saturday night - our last game against Montreal could have major consequences or none at all.
Depending on what Boston and Montreal do in their other games, Saturday’s tilt could be to win our division and finish second in our conference, or it could be to claim fourth (and home ice advantage) instead of fifth…or, it could be meaningless with fourth already locked up.
But really, what it comes down to is: yes, we’ve clinched a playoff spot, but we MUST win at least one of our last three games to avoid playing the Pens in the first round!
Sure, we’re 1-1-1 against them this season, and beat them last time we played them in the post-season, a 4-2 series win in 1999, but let’s be real here: the Pens would likely pummel us, especially if Crosby is back for the first round.
The Pens do have the most wins in the NHL so far this season. And the most goals. We allow a lot of shots against, third most in the NHL!
We can’t let up now. We don’t want the Pens getting all those shots. We don’t want Crosby, if he’s back, getting all those shots.
Go Leafs Go. Bob Mitchell’s break down of the Leafs' chances at winning their division or finishing fourth is inside the post. Cheers.
TORONTO WINS NORTHEAST DIVISION (No. 2 seed in conference)
Scenario 1: The Leafs win their three remaining games: Tampa (tonight), Florida (Thursday) and Montreal (Saturday); Montreal loses its last two games: Winnipeg (Thursday) and Toronto (Saturday). Boston loses its last three games: Tampa (Thursday), Washington (Saturday), Ottawa (Monday). Toronto finishes with 61 points and wins its first division crown since 2000.
Scenario 2: The Leafs wins their three remaining games. Montreal loses its two games and Boston wins just one of its three games. The Leafs and the Bruins would each have 61 points but Toronto would win the division based on the first tiebreaker. Deadlocks are decided by ROWs (regulation or overtime wins). The Leafs would have 28 ROWs and the Bruins would have 24.
Scenario 3: The Leafs win two of three remaining games and Montreal loses its two games while Boston loses all three of its remaining games. All three teams would have 59 points. The Leafs would have 27 ROWs while Montreal would have 24 and Boston 23.
TORONTO FINISHES FOURTH IN CONFERENCE
Scenario 1: Boston wins two of its last three games to finish first with 63 points. Toronto wins all its remaining games while Montreal loses all its games. The Leafs would have 61 points and open at home against the Canadiens (59 points) in the first round.
Scenario 2: Montreal beats both Winnipeg and Toronto and finishes first with 63 points. Toronto beats Tampa and Florida and finishes with 59 points. Boston loses all three of its remaining games and finishes with 59 points. The Leafs would take second in the division, fourth in the East and open at home against the Bruins in the first round because they would have 27 ROWs and the Bruins would have 23.
Scenario 3: Boston wins its three remaining games and finishes first with 65 points. Toronto wins its three remaining games and finishes with 61 points. Montreal beats Winnipeg and finishes with 61 points. The Leafs would get fourth overall because of their ROWs and open the playoffs at home against the Canadiens.