By the 2011 all-star break the Toronto Maple Leafs had amassed 43 points in 49 games.
Last year, the Montreal Canadiens qualified for the final Eastern Conference berth with just 88 points. For perspective, the previous four Eastern Conference 8th seed point totals were:
2009 - Montreal - 93
2008 - Boston - 94
2007 - NY Islanders - 92
2006 - Tampa Bay - 92
I believe this apparent anomaly was mainly a result of the Western Conference having a severely disproportionate amount of the total available points. In the 2007-2008 season, the east amassed 1355 points where as the west amassed 1377. West up by 22. In the 2008-2009 season, the east amassed 1364 points where as the west amassed 1378. West up by 14.
However at the end of the 2009-2010 season, the east amassed 1346 where as the west somehow (perhaps west teams were playing conservative to just make it to OT and get that guaranteed point. Gee Gary, I hope the ratings/attendance boost from closer playoff races in the last 20 games help compensate for a full season of west teams rocking the third period trap. Yes, I feel the league should either eliminate a point for losing in OT/shootout or go with 3 point games every game. This would be 3 pts for a regulation win and the existingl procedures for overtime/shootout results) amassed 1415. West up by 69.
Without going into all that one can simply compare the 2009-2010 final standings with the 2008-2009 final standings and see the difference, especially focusing on the 5 to 10 spots (In the west the 9 and 10 spot are not so notable but are quite notable in the east).
Anyways, this season appears to be shaping up to be more like the 2009-2010 season then the 2008-2009 season. The west is currently up by 48 (1091-1043).
And just a word on the wild west, the teams sitting 4th through 12th right now all appear to be in a dogfight for the playoffs. I would say in the East we're realistically looking at a 7-11. And just compare the point totals right now. I tell you the truth, if I was a hardcore fan of one of those 9 (ya, NINE) western conference teams, I would just not be happy reading the standings in the morning. Maybe drink some coffee, eat some toast. Read some comics first. Then maybe read the standings. That or just avoid the Eastern conference part of it. Why bring pain to yourself in life when you don't need to? Oh you're playing an east team? Ya you're probably better (see above), no need to check.
Like seriously, if Columbus and Nashville were in the east (oh wait...) they'd be laughing joyfully as they made the playoffs. Instead, they laugh nervously (if at all) with the other 53.33% of their conference as the season winds down.
(And now that I look at this, yes Gary, maybe this is more profitable venture. Attendance/ratings probably didn't decline in 2009-2010 once Western teams started playing more conservative 3rd period hockey. Or if they did. That wasn't the reason. It probably was noticed by some people (not me FTR), but not by many I imagine. You win this time Gary!)
So, yes, the eastern conference 8 spot point total could very well be relatively low again.
One helpful contributing factor to this occurring is the present form of the New Jersey Devils. Over the first half of the season they played disastrously. They have gone 16-2-2 in their last 20. Unreal. Ohhhh, Kovalchuk ISSS a good player afterall! Oh Russians...
(For the record, most Russians do not inexplicably suck despite previously performing at an extremely high level. It just seems that there is a higher proportion of Russian players performing in this way relative to players of other nationalities. Not sure if that is well based beyond Kovalchuk (just this season too for him as far as I know) Kovalev and Yashin. There may be other notables I am forgetting. I mean don't get me wrong here, my favourite (not best) Maple Leaf right now is either Kulemin or Schenn. So that right there shows I have nothing against Russian hockey. Back to who I like more for a moment… I really cannot decide between the two right now. We'll see how the rest of the season plays out. If I were forced at gunpoint to receive a Maple Leafs authentic NHL player jersey, and had 5 seconds to decide which player it would be, I think I would go with Schenn. This is mostly because I am a defenseman. Number 2 is also a good defenseman number. Doug Harvey. Brian Leetch. Eddie Shore. Al Macinnis. But really, I would hope this gunpoint decision came once both had been re-signed to longer contracts... that would be a better gun point favourite leaf decision situation if I’m being fully open and honest. Back to the Russians, I think Datysuk is one of the best players in the league. And when I say "best" I mean a player who is not only good, but good when it really counts. I'm thinking about players who help you win in the playoffs and/or Olympics. Datysuk is that kind of player. Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards and Sidney Crosby are other good examples.)
So yes, this amazing third quarter form from New Jersey has helped "soften up" the eastern conference (taken points from teams the Leafs are chasing).
Now given that thorough preface, on to the framework of the MMLPQPI:
The Leafs had 33 games remaining after the all star break. I wondered at what rate they would have to win in order to have a shot at the 8th and final playoff spot. I tested the "2 out of 3 proposition". If they went 2 for 3 the rest of the way or more accurately, 4/6 pts, they would add 44 points giving them a grand total of 87.
Good number. Crosby is the best player in hockey right now (well.. you know, before the cranial trauma). He also scored the goal of the millenium (so far) if you ask me. I don't think there can be much debate really. It should remain TGOTM for a while.
But seriously, I thought to myself: "88 last year, looks like another West heavy year, MAYBE.. It's at least a simple guideline to go by..."
So with that rule set in place, they had 11 3-game sets to play.
They have played 5 of those 11. Through 5 they are at +2:
Set 1 - 4/4
Set 2 - 5/4
Set 3 - 4/4
Set 4 - 5/4
Set 5 - 4/4
Set 1-5 Total - 22/20
Yesterday night's win was pretty huge. Leafs looked shaky at times but super dangerous at others. We must remember also that it was a Crosby and Malkinless team. Kulemin (XD) sniped in the first after going down one to a PP (haha, so much word play potential there). Kessel comes up with the GTG on a tip that had already been tipped. (I love those goals. The goalie is just like "yup, I'll just kind of be here, and like you know.. go down in the butterfly, and you know.. hope it just kind of hits me or well... misses the net.. but ya as far as that reaction component of what I do here.. ya... ya that's not happening) Then Grabo gets the GWG in OT which was really all about the set up by Phaneuf's end to end mission. Shades of the game against the Pens on Saturday. He gives it away at the point during a PP for a shorty and then under a minute later blasts one in with that extra angry fist pump showing he "knew it". Tonight, found to be flat footed on a long (beautiful) pass from Niskanen to Conner leading to Conner's breakway goal, he sets out in OT to achieve a goal (literally) and the goal is eventually accomplished with an Orrian rush. Well not quite... But it was Orrian for Phaneuf that's for sure.
Looking to the remaining 6 3-game sets:
Set 6 - Philly (2nd overall but lately relatively flat). Chicago (Super hot. Hey guess what? Toews is awesome!). Isles (Lowly. And probably lonely. Not enough fans in the stands man) Hoping for: 3pts
Set 7 - Philly (again). Buffalo (we CAN win in.. oh wait, no issue there). Bolts. HF: 3pts
Set 8 - Canes (win this game in regulation please) Florida (ditto but regulation/OT not as important) Boston (emerging division rivalry?) HF: 5pts
Set 9 (All on the road) - Minny (winny-able) Colorado (Would have been nicer to have Liles on our side for that one) Detroit. HF: 4pts
Set 10 - Buffalo. Boston. Ottawa (I hope Mr. Smith from the Matrix shows up "Mr Annnndersonnn.. you need to come with us…") HF: 4pts
Set 11 - Washington (hopefully chilling b4 playoffs) New Jersey (don't think they can realistically keep up their current 90% point acquisition rate. 90%. 90%. Just repeat "90%" over and over again. Is this the NBA or something?! "Ya we did alright that year. Went 90% actually. Ya it was a new team record for points. Got that cool Presidents' trophy... Lost to Montreal in the first round but ya... 148 point season.. it was pretty neat." WHAT has been going on there? Honestly, does anyone know? Time to read a Newark newspaper or something... if they have those kinds of things..) Montreal (Memorable win last year (The Hanson Show) Should happen again right?) HF: 4pts
So if my wishes come true (or an equivalent outcome), and I find them to be adequately realistic, the Leafs will go -1 over this final 6 set span. They would finish at +1 overall or 45/44 on the MMLPQPI which would leave them with a grand total of.... 88 points!
Which may or may not be enough!
GO LEAFS GO!