The Toronto Maple Leafs can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, but in the event they lose, here’s a breakdown of how the Leafs can still clinch a playoff spot.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the cusp of clinching a playoff spot for the first time in a 82 game regular season since 2003-04. Although the Leafs don’t necessarily have to win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in order to clinch a playoff spot, it would be ideal.
To simplify things, a win over the Lightning on Thursday night would secure a playoff spot for the Leafs. However, if they were to lose, the big picture remains the same: get two points and you’re in.
Sounds simple, right?
More from Tip of the Tower
- Cam Phillips making his mark on Toronto Argonauts offence
- Toronto Argonauts: 4 storylines ahead of matchup against Redblacks
- Federico Bernardeschi ready for new challenge with Toronto FC
- Toronto Argonauts overcome Roughriders in entertaining Touchdown Atlantic
- Buffalo Bills: Von Miller drawing inspiration from Bruce Smith
Well, here’s where things can get a bit complicated.
Let’s say the Leafs lose in a shootout on Thursday and the Islanders lose to Carolina. The Leafs would still clinch a playoff spot and earn the glorious “x” next to their name in the standings. But if the Islanders win and the Leafs lose — in regulation or overtime — Toronto would still need to earn another point before securing a playoff spot.
So let’s say the Leafs lose and the Islanders win. Naturally, thoughts of doubt will start to seep into the minds of Leaf fans, which, given the team’s history, is understandable. But in order for the Leafs to miss the playoffs a lot would have to go wrong.
For starters, Toronto would have to lose both of their remaining games, which is possible since they play the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Islanders or Lightning would have to win out. It’s a highly unlikely scenario, but stranger things have happened in sports.
Again, the ideal situation for the Leafs is to beat Tampa on Thursday night and put this whole “will they make the playoffs” discussion to bed. If that happens, the Leafs can then move onto improving their spot in the standings.
The Washington Capitals demolished the Leafs on Tuesday night and I don’t think Toronto wants to see them in round one, which means finishing second or third in the Atlantic Division is a must.
With the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators playing each other on Thursday, the Leafs will have a chance to gain a point on the loser of that game, pending it ends in regulation. Both teams are one point ahead of the Leafs, but both Toronto and Ottawa have a game in hand over Boston, meaning both teams could surpass the Bruins if they win out.
However, if the Bruins beat the Senators, and the Leafs beat the Lightning, odds are we’ll see a Bruins-Leafs matchup in round one.
The crux of any first round scenario is dependent on the Leafs earning two points during these final three games, though. Bottom line: if Toronto can notch one more victory they’ll clinch a playoff berth.