Wells Fargo Center; Philadelphia, PA
7:00 PM ET; SN (Ontario)
SBN Number 1 Hockey Boys: Broad Street Bullies
Bonus Flyers Coverage: former MLB outfielder Ricky Ledee
The Leafs play their penultimate game in good ol' Philadelphia. The home of the Liberty Bell, Rocky Balboa, cheesesteaks, and the meteorological phenomenon that it is indeed always sunny there.
Now that I've got you in the mood, let me set the stage for our 81st episode of this season of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey: "The Gang Clinches Last Overall."
For those of you who know me, you'll know I'm not particularly fond of tanking. People obsessively cheering for losses can get quite annoying, especially when the kids are scoring and the big pot of gold at the end of the crud rainbow is a lottery ticket with just a 1-in-5 chance of winning. The team loses enough that one win here or there doesn't change a whole lot. Hell, the Oilers will probably just win the damn thing yet again anyway.
Tonight, however, is different.
With a loss last night to Columbus and a 6-2 Oilers win over Vancouver, the Leafs now have sole possession of last, with 67 points to Edmonton's 69 (nice). A regulation loss tonight would max the Leafs out at 69 (nicer) points with the Oilers holding the ROW tiebreaker. In other words: lose tonight, and you're last.
While winning the 1st overall pick- and Auston Matthews- would be optimal, finishing last is great because it ensures that if the Leafs don't win, the NHL will have some lovely parting gifts for them. Those gifts include two big Finn power forwards in Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, and a bevy of great options with the (worst-case scenario) 4th overall pick. The Leafs would also be the only team to have a greater than 50% chance (52.5%, to be precise) of winning a top 3 pick in the lottery.
If great draft position isn't your thing, maybe vindictiveness is. Wouldn't it be great to watch the Boston Bruins flame out to a 9th place finish for the second straight year? Wouldn't it be so oh so wonderful to watch King Trashman Ratboy Brad Marchand have a career season go to complete waste? Oh, the overload. PLEASURE OVERLOAD.
Well, I've got good news: the Bruins play Detroit tonight, and a regulation win by the Wings makes 3rd seed in the Atlantic impossible for Boston to catch. Meanwhile, a Flyers win coupled with said Bruins loss would be a fatal dagger to their playoff hopes. Boston would need to win their final game and hope the Flyers do not do so much as get a loser point in their two remaining games.
The Flyers need this win. The Leafs, in effect, could deal that hated Boston scum a death blow tonight just by taking a knee.
Okay, maybe pure, unadultered hatred isn't your thing either. Maybe you're sick and tired of tanking and people cheering for losses. Well, guess what? MORE GOOD NEWS! Remember how I said the Leafs clinch last with a loss tonight? That also means they will have nothing left to tank for in Game 82 of the season, allowing Leaf fans to cheer their conscience and will the blue and white unanimously to victory on Saturday. What's more, the goal next year will be improvement and progress, not the draft lottery.
In effect: a loss tonight, and Tank Nation is dead and gone for good. Cheer for a loss so that you will NEVER have to cheer for a loss ever again.
No matter what your reasoning is, one thing is clear: tonight is a Must. Lose. Game.
Projected Marlies Lineup
Speculation was that Peter Holland and Leo Komarov may return to the lineup tonight. Since there was no morning skate due to a back-to-back, I'm just using last night's lines. I'm sure there's a change that'll happen somewhere. I'm usually wrong. Jonathan Bernier is the expected starter, but not yet confirmed.
I hadn't been paying attention, but good god is this a terrible lineup. If the Flyers can't beat this, then maybe they don't deserve a playoff spot.
Tobias Lindberg - Tyler Bozak - P.A. Parenteau
Colin Greening - William Nylander - Kasperi Kapanen
Brooks Laich - Frederik Gauthier - Michael Grabner
Sam Carrick - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes
Morgan Rielly - Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado
Andrew Campbell - TJ Brennan
Projected Philadelphia Lineup
Per Daily Faceoff. Steve Mason is the confirmed starter tonight.
Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Nick Cousins - Sam Gagner
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere
Evgeni Medvedev - Radko Gudas
The Leafs should lose this and need to lose this, so they probably win 1-0 on another Grabner buttgoal. Oh well. Not like we were winning 1st overall anyway.