Thursday, March 23, 2006

Playoff Hockey

"We have to climb over two (teams) to get to that spot," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "Montreal is looking to regain their spot in the next games. They are playoff games. We have to approach it that way."

This is it folks -- Puck drops in 10 minutes. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Candiens. The play tonight, and again on Saturday night. The Leafs have 14 games left in their season, and need to pass two teams in order to make the playoffs.

If Toronto can sweep the Canadiens in this two game set, they will have sole possession of ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey and Atlanta face off against each other tonight in another huge Eastern Conference matchup. Based on schedules and momentum, I believe the Leafs have a better chance of catching the New Jersey Devils than the Atlanta Thrashers, despite the fact that they are 6 points back in the standings.

New Jersey has 9 tough games left on their 14 game schedule, and have been struggling of late. At best, I expect the New Jersey Devils to go 7-7. As such, if the Leafs can manage a 10-3-1 record over the final stretch, they will overtake the Devils.

That might look like a tough task, but that is what the Leafs are going to need to do to make the playoffs. The alternative is to overtake the red hot Atlanta Thrashers, who are 7-3 in their past ten, and sit four points ahead, although the Leafs have a game in hand.

Current Standings:

6TAMPA BAY693628 57721621918-12-218-16-34-5-1
7NEW JERSEY683426 87618819521-10-313-16-54-4-2
8ATLANTA693429 67423023019-13-415-16-27-3-0

9MONTREAL683227 97319421217-10-415-17-54-5-1
10TORONTO683230 67020822621-12-211-18-45-4-1
11FLORIDA693030 96919921421-9-49-21-57-2-1
12NY ISLANDERS683232 46819923217-14-215-18-26-4-0