Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Losing in Overtime is Killing Their Playoff Chances

Jeff Langridge@@JeffLangridge1Correspondent IIIMarch 10, 2011

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 08: James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Josh Bailey #12 of the New York Islanders watch Bailey's shot sail over the net at the Nassau Coliseum on March 8, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As it stands today, the Toronto Maple Leafs are four points out of the playoffs.

While it's entirely possible that the Leafs will make up those points in the coming weeks, one thing has kept them from consistently gaining ground on the opposition: overtime losses.

It has been the Maple Leafs' Achilles' heel in the last month. In that time, the Leafs have lost four times in overtime or shootouts. What makes it worse is that three of the games were against three teams that are below them in the standings, and the fourth team was severely injury plagued.

When they face the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Islanders, they should be able to get a full two points and not have to settle for one.

Normally, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime would be considered okay, but if both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are injured, they are certainly beatable.

In the games against the Penguins and the Thrashers, the Leafs gave up the lead in the third period. Against the Pens, they wasted two goals in 35 seconds at the beginning of the third period to give up one-goal leads twice before we lost in a shootout.

With the Thrashers, they gave up a two-goal lead, with the second goal coming with roughly five minutes left.

Look at it this way: If the Leafs had won those four games, then they would be tied with the Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes for the final playoff spot.

You can be negative and say that if they had lost those games in regulation they would be eight points out of the playoffs. At this point of the season, they need every point possible, and handing points to other teams is not helping their cause.

The Leafs need to prove that they are a playoff team, and the rest of March will either help them prove it or show us that this team is just not ready yet. In the rest of the month, the Leafs only face two teams that are below them in the league standings in the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche. They face the Sabres twice and the Hurricanes once.

Those are games they must win in regulation.

It is getting harder each game for the the Leafs to make the playoffs, and they can't afford to lose in overtime again. If they are going to go to overtime, it has to be win or go home.