Three key games for the Leafs’ playoff chances
As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue their improbable push for the post-season, it’s about time we got off our high horses and started to take heed. Do we actually think they’re going to make the playoffs? Of course not. But we are intrigued. With the boys in blue furiously chasing the Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final post-season berth in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, while the New Jersey Devils nip at their heels, the home stretch is shaping up to be an exciting one. And it’s the first time in a long time.
There are only 16 games to go in the regular season, so this week is going to be critical for the Leafs, with tilts against the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and, most importantly, those pesky Sabres. We take a quick look at the current playoff picture and what the week ahead could mean for the Leafs.
1. Tuesday, March 8 vs. New York Islanders
The Leafs have to walk away with two points from this one. A visit to Long Island is an absolute blessing at this point in the season, especially considering the contest opens a 15-games-in-30-days stretch for the Leafs that includes matchups against eight teams with 80-plus points.
2. Thursday, March 10 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are the best team in the East, and the Leafs will be lucky if they come out with a single point. The squad doesn’t have to be perfect down the stretch, but they do have to be damn good. And that means they’ll have to a win a couple games that they normally wouldn’t. They could help their own cause in a big way by making this one of those games.
3. Saturday, March 12 vs. Buffalo Sabres
If the season were to end today, Buffalo would make the playoffs and Toronto wouldn’t. The Leafs are five points back of the Sabres and their counterparts have a game in hand. That makes Saturday’s potential four-point swing even more important. The Leafs have to win this one if they want to stay within striking distance heading into their final regular season clash with Buffalo at the end of the month.
• Leafs look to improve their power play [Toronto Star]
• Crunch time beckons for resurgent Maple Leafs [Globe and Mail]
• Leafs can’t afford to pile up losses [National Post]
• Leafs’ Wilson wants better defence [Toronto Sun]
• The Real Deal [Sportsnet.ca]