There are two schools of thought for cheering for your enemies at this time of the year. You can create scenarios in your mind that get you the opponent you want at each potential level of the playoffs. It’s tactical thinking, and it’s clever thinking, and I don’t like it.
I think you should just be arrogant. Mindlessly, ruthlessly arrogant. You cheer for, no, demand that the Leafs bull forward up the standing with all they have in them. Do you want to play Ottawa or Columbus, Washington or Montréal? Who cares! Put the pedal down and play like you mean it, Leafs.
To that end, your job tonight is to cheer hard and loud for the Ottawa Senators.
I know. Do it anyway.
Here is the standings in the East:
Standings as of March 21, 2017
|4 NY Rangers||72||45||24||3||93||42||231||189||42|
|9 NY Islanders||71||33||26||12||78||32||210||218||-8|
|10 Tampa Bay||71||34||28||9||77||30||194||197||-3|
|16 New Jersey||71||26||33||12||64||23||164||209||-45|
What I see is Toronto in the last playoff position, and Boston just ahead of them in points. Now Boston has more ROW than Toronto and a better goal differential, two better indicators of success at this point in the season, but it is points that count.
The other thing I see is that Toronto scores goals almost like a Metro team. They let in lots, but in the remaining 11 games, the Leafs can get some more above average goaltending, and they can get wins. They can pass Boston as they fall.
Ottawa at Boston: your job here is to cheer hard for the Sens. You love Bobby Ryan right now. You think Craig is the better Anderso(e)n, and you figure this Guy Boucher fellow is the biggest genius to ever climb on a bench. Believe it, and it will be so. Besides, Boston is tired from getting their asses handed to them on blue and white enamelled platter last night.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo: your job here is to cheer hard for the Sens. Buffalo is not a threat, and depending on where Pittsburgh finishes, the Leafs might face them early. The Penguins could take the Conference lead tonight. That would put them in a position to play the Leafs in the first round if the playoffs started tomorrow. They don’t. It doesn’t matter which mangy Metro team finishes where. The Leafs are taking Boston and they will be playing whoever is second in the Atlantic. Cheer for Phil if it floats your boat.
New York Rangers at New Jersey: your job here is to cheer hard for the Rangers to just run these Jersey boys ragged. And cheer for the Sens. The Leafs play New Jersey on Thursday. We want them to still be sore in all the un-fun places by then. Go Rags, and Go Sens.
Calgary at Washington: your job here is to cheer for whoever you like. Metro team? Don’t care how well they do. Western team? Totally irrelevant. In fact, why are you watching this game, go cheer for the Sens.
Detroit at Montréal: your job here is to cheer hard for the Red Wings, because a pathetic team like them beating the Habs would be funny. What’s that? You don’t want the Habs to fall below the Sens and end up the Leafs’ first round opponent after they take the Bruins? Do you fear the Habs!?!? You do not. Cheer for them to lose always.
Arizona at Tampa Bay: your job here is to never look behind you. Look ahead. You don’t feel the hot breath of Florida Man on your back. You do not. You are charging forward without admitting you even have peripheral vision. This game does not matter.
Carolina at Florida: see above. Also, Go Sens.
Philadelphia at Winnipeg: your job here is to cheer for a Flyers’ shutout. Obviously. It’s not all about winning. Sometimes you can look at the rookie scoring race.
San Jose at Minnesota: go to bed, this is a Western game of no importance.
Vancouver at Chicago: it would be funny if Vancouver goes on a win streak and ruins their lottery chances, so cheer for them in an idle moment.
St. Louis at Colorado: your job is to pity the fools who bought tickets to this game.