The Leafs today embark on their three-game California road trip of death, sitting in a precarious position with 69 points (nice) and the second wildcard spot. On one hand, Boston is just a point ahead with two games in hand, meaning a Leafs win could potentially vault them back into 3rd in the Atlantic. On the other hand, the Islanders and Panthers remain close behind, and a loss tonight could make things mighty uncomfortable for the Leafs.
Twenty-four (!!!) teams are in action tonight, so this will be a lengthy read; let's go!
Toronto Maple Leafs @ San Jose Sharks, 10:30 PM
California! The Sunshine State! The Big Easy! The Land of a Thousand Lakes! The Leafs will begin a three-game-in-four-night trip here with a visit to San Jose. Things won't be easy for them; their last win in San Jose came on January 11, 2011. Prior to that, you'd need to go as far back as March 26, 1997- when the Leafs were of the Western Conference and Patrick Marleau was just a rookie- for the second most recent Leafs win. The odds don't favour a Leafs win, but don't let that distract you from the fact that the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.
CHEER FOR: The Leafs. Why do you need to be told that?
Arizona Coyotes @ Boston Bruins, 7:00 PM
The Leafs really could use a regulation Bruins loss, while the Coyotes, firmly entrenched in second-last in the NHL, is just playing out the string.
CHEER FOR: The Coyotes. An improbable win by a bad Yotes team, coupled with an unusual road win by the Leafs against the Sharks would vault them into 3rd in the Atlantic and oh god we're doomed aren't we/
Carolina Hurricanes @ Florida Panthers, 7:30 PM
The Panthers sit three points behind Toronto, rendering it impossible to catch up to them tonight, but you really don't want to give the Cats any leeway. Thankfully, Florida plays.....THE SECOND LAST PLACE HURRICANES? OH, COME ON!
CHEER FOR: The Hurricanes. *heavy sobs*
Nashville Predators @ Buffalo Sabres, 7:00 PM
The Sabres are 7 points back of the Leafs, having lost back-to-back games against Colorado and Arizona. Suffice to say that they're not a likely threat, but you want to make it as easy as possible by thinning the competition.
CHEER FOR: The Predators. Barring a collapse, the Sabres won't catch the Leafs, but best to not even make that an option.
Colorado Avalanche @ Philadelphia Flyers, 7:00 PM
The Flyers have fallen back considerably, going 3-6-1 in their last ten games; they sit six points back of the Leafs.
CHEER FOR: The Avs. The Flyers have fallen back of the herd, but they're a streaky team. It's better to hope the door shuts on them before they can mount any kind of comeback.
Columbus Blue Jackets @ Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 PM
The Habs are now seven points ahead of the Leafs (albeit with two extra games played). That 3-2 OT loss didn't do the Leafs many favours. If you're still of the belief that Montreal is catchable, a loss tonight paired with a Toronto win would close that gap to five points with two games in hand. Even if you're not of that belief, why would you want to cheer for the Habs? Ew. Gross.
CHEER FOR: The Blue Jackets. Remember that time they beat the Habs 10-0? That was fun.
Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers, 7:00 PM
Yeah, we're not catching either of these teams.
CHEER FOR: Whoever you want; I have no strong preference here.
Edmonton Oilers @ St. Louis Blues, 8:00 PM
All-Western matchup, meaning there's no impact on the Leafs whatsoever.
CHEER FOR: the Blues anyway, because LOLOILERS.
Minnesota Wild @ Winnipeg Jets, 8:00 PM
Again, no impact on the Leafs what with playing in another conference.
CHEER FOR: Auston Matthews, because he is better than Patrik Laine.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Dallas Stars, 8:30 PM
Dallas is in the West, and we have zero chance of catching Pittsburgh, or of their playoff positioning (which will be within the Metro Division) having any impact on us whatsoever.
CHEER FOR: PHIL!
Los Angeles Kings @ Calgary Flames, 9:00 PM
A great Western Conference match with playoff implications, but none of this will have any bearing on the Leafs.
CHEER FOR: Ben Bishop to get lit up if he's starting, because that'd be hilarious. Alternatively, cheer for Jonathan Quick to get lit up if he's starting, because that may cause goaltending controversy and be equally hilarious.
Detroit Red Wings @ Vancouver Canucks, 10:00 PM
The Red Wings are last in the East and 11 points back of the Leafs, while the Canucks are in the West.
CHEER FOR: Normally I'd say go with the Western team, but Detroit is not catching up. I'm cheering for both of these teams to remain firmly in denial about needing to be sellers at the deadline, because then we all win.