The 2010-11 season began with many Toronto Maple Leaf fans renewing their hopes that their beloved Buds might have a shot at a playoff spot.
After starting the season with four straight wins, the Maple Leafs quickly found themselves on a horrific losing streak which saw the Blue and White drop eight straight games, including two shootout loses from the period of October 28th through November 13th.
Fresh off the heals of a terrific come from behind win against the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night, many Leaf fans once again revisited the possibility of their team earning a playoff spot.
Unfortunately, just as a playoff spot looked to be within reach, the Maple Leafs once again find themselves six points behind the New York Rangers (who occupy eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings) and the aforementioned Buffalo Sabres, who occupy seventh after their 6-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators late Sunday afternoon.
Arguably playing their best hockey of the season, the Maple Leafs own a 5-2-3 record over their past 10 games. In fact, the Buds have been one of the NHL’s better teams since the All-Star break, a fact that has Toronto fans talking playoffs, if not this season, for the 2011-12 season.
If you are looking for a reason the Leafs are not more entrenched in the playoff race, you need not look any further than that eight-game stretch which all but killed any chance of the Blue and White making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
With thirteen games to play, the Maple Leafs would likely have to win at least 10 of them to solidify a spot in the playoffs.
Of those 13 games the Maple Leafs will play both the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes one more time.
With Toronto trailing both of those teams in the standings, it is imperative that the Leafs win both games. Failure to do so would spell disaster for the Maple Leafs' playoff hopes—which are slim as it is.
Another threat nipping at the Maple Leafs’ heals are the New Jersey Devils.
Thought to be headed for a lottery pick after a horrific start to the season, the Devils have been all but unbeatable since they brought back head coach Jacques Lemaire.
It would take a monumental effort for the Devils (who are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games) to sneak into the playoffs, but the mere fact that they are even in the conversation is impressive enough.
At this point, with so little room for error, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to be near perfect.
Complicating matters is the fact that Toronto will play eight of their remaining 13 games on the road where the Blue and White have struggled all season, earning a 14-16-3 record through their first 33 road games.
It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings, but somewhere Rita MacNeil is working on her vocals—which does not bode well for Leaf fans!
Until next time,