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NHL Playoff Death Watch: The Maple Leafs are a smoldering tire fire

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy
Backes has hat trick as Blues top Leafs 5-3
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Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier looks on while playing St. Louis Blues during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

Being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan must be one of the life’s most confounding situations.

On the one hand, the Leafs could still be a playoff team. They have 80 points, like seemingly half the conference does right now. Based on the percentages, they have a shot at making the second wild card. One assumes that would make a section of the fan base happy, and even those begging for regime change might tune in to see if they can give Boston the what-for.

But if they miss the playoffs, that brings its own joy. Because new ownership will clean house, starting with a coach hired for his defensive prowess who then showed a stunning iinability to understand the term or how to encourage it.

As James Mirtle wrote after the Leafs were outshot by eleventy-seventy billion last night by the Blues:

The funny thing about the NHL these days is that a lot of what defines which teams win and lose games is random. Goaltenders are so good that it often takes funny bounces or deflections to beat them, situations where the puck being one inch one way instead of the other is the difference between two points for one team and two points for the other.

Players talk about this all the time: They either get the bounces or they don’t. And when you out possess a team the way the Blues did the Leafs, you're just exponentially improving the number of chances that the puck has to bounce in your favour.

… While management has denied the team has a possession problem in the past, Carlyle has noted going right back to the first game of the season that he would like to see his team manage the puck better and establish more of a cycle game.

The reality is, however, that Toronto is an even worse team in this area than they were a year ago, dropping from 43.7 per cent to 41.6 per cent, better than only last place basket case Buffalo in both seasons.

Yowch.

Crazy night in the NHL last night. Let’s see where things stand.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

Here’s the Eastern Conference picture:

Team

Place/ Pts./ROW (Games Remaining)

Tragic #

% Chance 1st Wild Card

% Chance of 2nd Wild Card B

Columbus Blue Jackets

WILD CARD 1/80/32 (5H/5A)

-

26

21

Detroit Red Wings

WILD CARD 2/80/28 (5H/5A)

-

32

25

Washington Capitals

9th/80/25 (4H/5A)

18

9

17

Toronto Maple Leafs

10th/80/27 (4H/4A)

16

9

15

New Jersey Devils

11th/75/31 (6H/4A)

15

5

11

Ottawa Senators

12th/72/25 (7H/3A)

12

0

0

Carolina Hurricanes

13th/71/30 (4H/6A)

11

0

0

New York Islanders

14th/65/22(4H/6A)

5

0

0

The Blue Jackets won a huge game against Detroit last night, moving back into wild card position and controlling their own fate from here on in. The Red Wings remain the favorite to snag that other wild card, mostly because they have games in-hand on the Capitals and the Leafs. They also have two games left against Buffalo, one against Carolina and face a Blues team in the season finale that might be on autopilot by then.

The Capitals pissed away another point in allowing the LA Kings to rally in the third period. The Caps are almost certain to lose any tie breaker with the teams they’re surrounded by. But still, they’re the one that could catch fire and take a wild card outright, having taken six out of a possible eight points in their last four.

Meanwhile in the Western Conference:

Team

Place/Record/Pts. (Games Remaining)

Tragic #

% Chance Wild Card A

% Chance of Wild Card B

Minnesota Wild

WILD CARD 1/85/30 (5H/5A)

-

68

24

Phoenix Coyotes

WILD CARD 2/82/30 (5H/4A)

-

22

44

Dallas Stars

9th/79/31 (4H/6A)

17

8

29

Vancouver Canucks

10th/76/28 (6H/3A)

14

0

2

Nashville Predators

12th/73/30 (4H/5A)

9

0

0

Winnipeg Jets

11th/73/26 (3H/6A)

9

0

0

Calgary Flames

13th/67/24 (4H/6A)

5

0

0

Really good win for the Coyotes last night against a Penguins team that’s suddenly having an identity crisis.

Dallas meanwhile couldn’t overcome Teuvo-mania in Chicago. Said Jamie Benn: “You have to play a full 60 minutes consistently, the right way. We have three or four more of these back-to-backs. They’re not easy games to play. The last 10 we have here aren’t going to be easy. We’re going to have to find a way to stick together and try to get as many points as we can.”

There’s still time. And a game in-hand. And, again, a final night showdown with the Coyotes in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, for the Presidents’ Trophy, the Blues (105 points) moved back ahead of the Boston Bruins by a point and continue to lead San Jose by two points. The Sharks have eight games left; the Blues and Burins have 10.

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