Sunday, March 23, 2008

Will the Real Toronto Maple Leafs Please Stand up?

Toronto's record:

1st 53 games of the season: 20-24-9 (13 games below .500)
On pace for a 69 point season
Last 23 games of the season: 15-7-1 (7 games over .500)
On pace for a 111 point season

Just wanted to point out how well the Leafs have played over a pretty decent chunk of the schedule. What could have been? So many should've, could've, would've scenarios to talk about. Over the last quarter of the season, Toronto is on pace to have the best record in the NHL.

What changed?
  • Toskala has started every one of those games.
  • Wozniewski was removed from the lineup.
  • The young kids were brought in and injected energy into the lineup
  • The NTC 5 have stepped and showed that they deserve the big contracts that they were rewarded.
  • Sundin has been HUGE!!! (Mr. Clutch is coming back on Tuesday!)
I think Toronto will go 6-0 from here-on out. Whether or not it's going to be enough to squeak into 8th spot, or take over that familiar and seemingly predestined 9th place spot at this time, only time will tell. This team is playing with heart and emotion, and doing everything they can to will themselves into the playoffs.

Current Pace:
  • Philadelphia - 75 gp, 84 pts, pace: 92 points, potential: 98 pts, 44 wins
  • Boston - 75 gp, 84 pts, pace: 92 points, potential: 98 pts, 44 wins
  • Washington - 76 gp, 82 pts, 88 pts, potential: 94 pts, 43 wins
  • Buffalo - 75 gp, 81 pts, 88 pts, potential: 95 pts, 42 wins
  • Florida - 76 gp, 81 pts, 87 pts, potential: 93 pts, 42 wins
  • Toronto - 76 gp, 80 pts, 86 pts, potential: 92 pts, 42 wins
IF Toronto goes 6-0 from hereon out, they will be very, very close to a playoff spot. They need 5 of the following six to happen:

  • Florida to 5-1 or worse
  • Buffalo to go 5-1-1 or worse (Leafs would win tiebreaker with more wins)
  • Washington to 4-1-1 or worse (Leafs/Caps are 2-2 head-to-head this season, so tiebreaker would come down to goal differential, where the Caps have a -2 to -16 advantage)
  • Boston to go 4-3 or worse (Considering the Leafs play Boston twice, two regulation wins are a must. Toronto would win tiebreaker on wins. It comes down to hoping the Bruins lose at least one more game in their remaining 5)
  • Philadelphia to 4-3 or worse (Toronto would also win tiebreaker here on wins)

It all comes down to Toronto going 6-0. I think this team will refuse to lie down and go silently into that good night. We can't count on Philly losing three of their remaining seven games, but I think the other five are definitely in the realm of high probability. It comes down to Toronto going 6-0. They've shown that they have the heart, determination and talent to get the job done. I know I've been fooled twice by late season heroics that came just a few days too late, but I refuse to not support the team in this playoff run. If they manage to get in, this team is good enough to beat anybody.

My prediction (all based on a hypothetical 6-0 run by the Leafs to end the season):

  • #7 Philadelphia, 93 points (4-2-1 to finish out season)
  • #8 Toronto, 92 points (6-0 baby)
  • #9 Washington, 91 points (They scare me the most - Toronto needs to rely on Carolina to take care of the Caps in 2 remaining games)
  • #10 Buffalo, 91 points (Loss to Leafs and one loss in the three games against the Canadiens or Sens will eliminate the Sabres)
  • #10 Boston, 90 points (Lose two to the Leafs and one against the Sabres)
  • #11 Florida, 89 points (I don't see Florida going 6-0, although they are 8-1-1 in their last 10)


Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Delusional Fan Riding the Leafs Playoff Bandwagon

The playoffs are still in the Leaf's own hands at this point. That loss to Jersey earlier this week really hurt their chances. They basically have 2 losses to give this season if they want any chance of getting in. Sport Club Stats gives them an 84.5% chance of getting in at 11-2. Any higher than that is essentially a lock. 11-1-1 is a 95.4%. The loss to Jersey officially eliminated the Leafs from the running for 1st overall in the Eastern conference, in case you were in any was curios.

I know we're grasping at straws at this point, but I've given up any hope at a lottery pick with the way everyone is playing now. If Toskala plays every game until they are mathematically eliminated, I think they'll go at least 8-4, which will put them solidly in the middle of the non-playoff pack.

I've witnessed the last two playoff runs, and I know what this team is capable of. Last season, they were playing well enough that they might have surprised a few teams in the playoffs, and we can only say "what if" about that poor outing vs. Wade Dubielewicz and the shootout loss by these same New Jersey Devils. A couple seasons ago, the team was almost carried into the playoffs on the back of J.S. Aubin, a career backup/minor leaguer. This season we have Mats Sundin, apparently hungrier than ever to lead Toronto to the playoffs, and Vesa Toskala, a warrior in net, trying to do everything he can to lead them.

It's unfortunate that this team seems to take 5 months to come out of hibernation each season. There are so many "what ifs" this year:

  • The refusal to quickly abandon the strange high-pressure forecheck early this season when it was readily apparent that it wasn't going to work this team.
  • Essentially every appearance Raycroft made this season, save for the shutout over Buffalo early in the season. 2 wins in 17 appearances has gone a long way to destroying any chance this team had in making the big show.
  • The mid-season groin injury to Toskala. He had a stretch where he was 1-5-1, including going 0-3 when he returned from the injury, which leads me to believe he was playing hurt for a few games before he went on the IR.
  • The injury to McCabe. We all love to rag on the guy, but the results speak for themselves. This team is a playoff hockey club, maybe not a very good one, but a playoff club none-the-less, when McCabe is in the lineup.
I'm sick of not seeing the Leafs in the playoffs since 2003. The Leafs were 1 point out of last overall a little over a month ago, and I was in full support of a fire sale, tanking, and the christening of Steven Stamkos the new savior of the organization. The NTC essentially destroyed that dream, but now they are responding to the critics in a big way, and as Leafs fan, I'm going to support them all the way, and hang on to those last few straws dangling off the edge of the playoff bandwagon and hope that we all somehow manage to hang on.