Numbers: Why the Leafs will make the playoffs
The following email arrived earlier today. Since it contains high-priority optimism, I asked the sender for permission to share. (Note: It was sent prior to Wednesday's games, in which Buffalo beat Atlanta and Florida lost to Ottawa.)
Without further ado, a statistical analysis that projects the Leafs finishing No. 7 in the Eastern Conference.
From: Sandeep Kembhavi
To: Vinay Menon
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 2:15 PM
Subject: Here's some Ovaltine
TIME FOR A SNOOZE…TILL APRIL
This email will put you to sleep, Vinay.
And it won't be due to sheer boredom. Rather, its contents will unload all your doubts and fears faster than a Dion Phaneuf slapshot, allowing you to slip into a deep, peaceful, and dreamless slumber for the next several weeks. But unlike a high-and-wide Phaneuf blast, this verbal slapshot will find nothing but net, popping off your water bottle and spilling its potent blend of dread and disappointment-flavoured Gatorade onto the solid sheet of ice that has formed over the hopes and dreams you once dared entertain.
Let me get right to the point. The Leafs are guaranteed to make the playoffs. How do I know this? Well, based on immutable truth, for starters. Check out the below study to learn why I can so boldly utter the forbidden P-word without washing my mouth out with soap and water. Oh, and brusquely shove Andrew Bailey out of the way as you do so.
These are the seven teams fighting for playoff spots in the East. If we assume that each continues to collect points at the same clip as they have over the past 10 games, by the end of the season the Leafs will be most comfortably settled in the rarified ranks of the Top 8.
They'll have their feet up on the coffee table with a beer in hand, Cheetos crumbs down the fronts of their battle-weathered jerseys, and 'Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis' on the television in their homely 7th place abode. Catching a glimpse through their window of those 8th place vagrants who have recently taken up residence on a park bench in the ritzy playoff neighbourhood, scrounging around for spare points wherever they can be found, the Leafs will simply draw the blinds and turn up the volume.
It goes without saying that each team will perform exactly as this projection suggests, which guarantees that the Leafs will make it. But or good measure, let's take a look at the points earned by the 8th place team at the end of the season for each of the past five years since the lockout.
These digits may appear foreign and confusing to fellow long-suffering Leaf fans, who, like me, have lost the ability to count to such dizzying numbers from lack of recent practice. But put down your noxious Gatorade bottle, and pull out your abacus. I don't know what that weird upside-down six is either, but maybe we can learn together.
Let's begin by ignoring that pesky anomalous year, 2008. Uh, let's also strike from the calendar 2006, 2007 and 2009. Those point totals are giving me a headache. And given the steadfast commitment to mediocrity of most of the Eastern Conference, it seems unlikely that this year's motley crew of 8th place vagrants – whoever they turn out to be – will reach such lofty heights. Given how the likes of Atlanta, Buffalo, and New York are folding like origami swans, it seems they are as afraid of the upside-down six as we are.
So for all our sakes, let's just focus on that ripe and juicy 88. In their remaining 22 games, the Leafs will have to go on a run of 14-7-1 to hit that total (1.31 PPG). Overtime and shootout losses could replace outright defeats to lower the required win total by a game or two, but this gives you an idea of the pace they'll need to maintain to make it to the dance: basically, two wins for every loss.
Can they do it? The numbers say yes. Will they do it? My gut, corroded as it is from years of overindulgence in that vile Gatorade blend, just made a gurgling sound that I interpret as a yes.
If they do, will they get slaughtered by Philly or Tampa Bay in the first round? Well, my gut has gone quiet for this one. Let's just focus on one immensely unlikely feat at a time.
Now off to bed until April.
Sandeep Kembhavi (aka Stanislav the Sad Bureacrat) recently moved back to Toronto to be on hand for the Maple Leafs' dramatic turnaround. Women shriek in horror and mothers shield their children's eyes when they see him strutting around in his Leafs' jersey (although the results are the same even without the jersey or the strutting) but he believes that one day, the sacred emblem will once again evoke pride rather than disdain.