clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The probable, the possible and the pessimist: three views of the Maple Leafs playoff chances

New, comments

Pessimism isn’t very good at math. Neither is Hope.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs
That’s what it’s all about: one-on-one battles.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s just get this out there first: yesterday while the Leafs were undertaking the arduous journey to Buffalo, their probability of making the playoffs dropped a tiny bit. Let’s go to the big wheel of perhapsness:

Yesterday at this time it was at 87%.

The famous quote from a Sherlock Holmes story goes: “when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

That’s great when you’re solving mysteries in fiction, but in hockey, the range of the possible—the extremes of hope and pessimism—is really large. There are only nine games left, and the outcome of none of them is certain. All could be wins or losses, and the range of points the Leafs can get is somewhere between 0 and 18.

Neither zero, the dark land of the pessimist, nor 18, the place where the hopeful sun never sets, are likely. They are not probable. Sometimes it’s hard convincing our emotions of the probable range inside the possible, however.

The Leafs’ probability went down a very slight amount because the competition is multiplying and winning and two of them they play each other tonight. Last night, the Islanders won, the Lightning won, and tonight the Islanders play the Bruins.

The Leafs hold one playoff spot that is in contention. Someone gets the other. (That’s the optimist’s view of the probability.) The Bruins share the probability of taking the third place Atlantic spot with the Leafs and they also share the probability of taking the last wild card with the Islanders. There are other teams with a share of that wild card chance too, but only the Islanders have a big slice. All of these teams have a larger probability of missing the playoffs than do the Leafs.

Probability is not destiny.

And we know how you change your stars: you win. The math agrees: