Friday, February 25, 2011

Maple Leafs finally in a playoff race

About 20 games ago I suggested that the Maple Leafs were essentially eliminated from the playoffs since they needed to win about 65% of their remaining games to to finish the season with 90 points and the last playoff spot. At the time the Leafs' winning percentage was just a little over 45% so that dramatic of a turnaround just didn't make sense.

Yet a turnaround has occurred. The Leafs earned 24 points over the last 20 games which works out to a 60% winning percentage - below the pace I had quoted earlier. However, since that time the play of Atlanta, Carolina and Buffalo has deteriorated to the point that less than 90 points might get you into the playoffs. If the Leafs finish with 88 points that just might do it. That requires a winning percentage of 64% the rest of the way which considering their last 20 games just might happen.

The other positive is that at the mid point of the season they need to leapfrog five teams to make it to the playoffs. Now it's just two teams, Buffalo and Carolina. Most people are focused on the fact that there is only 6 points separating the Leafs and Hurricanes but that is a lot of points when teams earn a point on a regular basis for losses (in overtime or a shootout).

Now here is the bad news. The Leafs need to win 14 out of their remaining 21 games to make it to post-season. However, 9 of their remaining games are against the top 10 teams in the league. Only 8 games are against the bottom 10 teams. So winning 14 games will be quite a challenge. And although James Reimer has been terrific, let's not forget that Cam Ward and Ryan Miller can win a few games for Carolina and Buffalo.

Despite how it turns out, it will be an exciting finish which is something Leaf fans haven't experienced in a number of years.

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