The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently in playoff contention. Yes, you did just read that sentence right. Take a second to process that one before you go on reading.
Alright, here we go again. The Blue and White currently have 12 more games left in their 2012-2013 season. They are sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a cool 44 points.
The Leafs are on a three-game winning streak with victories over the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and the rival Ottawa Senators. Throughout this current stretch, the Buds have been helped along by excellent goaltending by James Reimer and the dominant play and goal scoring of Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri.
When the Maple Leafs resume playing this coming Thursday, they will be taking on the injury-bitten Philadelphia Flyers, a team that is sitting 12th in the East. They will continue to battle against Atlantic Division opponents as they will face the Devils and then have a home-and-home series with fellow Original Six member, the New York Rangers.
Both the Devils and Rangers are holding down playoff positions right now, and the Leafs would need some big wins to maintain their lead over the back of the playoff pack.
The next three games will see them pitted against the rival Habs, the Devils again and the Ovechkin-led Capitals. The Montreal game will be a pivotal game in terms of points, as Montreal is currently ahead in the standings.
The Leafs are also on the winning end of their battles with the Canadiens this season, going 2-1 in their three meetings.
Continuing on through the season, the Buds will tangle with the Islanders, who are just on the outside looking in on the hunt for a final playoff spot. Next up would be a clash with the Senators, a team the Blue and White have excelled against in this shortened season.
They hold a 3-1 series edge, with two of those wins being Leaf shutouts.
The final three games on the schedule will take the Buds down to Florida to meet with the Lightning and Panthers, respectively. The final regular-season game of the Leafs' year will be a classic match with none other than the Canadiens.
If the Leafs can hang tough and continue their current winning streak, the franchise's first postseason birth since 2004 is all but assured. I'll leave you with a stat that shows just how long it's been since the Leafs last reached the promised land.
The last time the Leafs were last in the playoffs, Brett Favre was still the No. 1 quarterback in Green Bay. Boy, it has been a while.
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