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FTB: The Leafs are in a playoff spot

The birds are singing again (they’re not actually, it’s still winter).

Toronto Maple Leafs v Dallas Stars
DALLAS, TEXAS - JANUARY 29: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal against the Dallas Stars in the third period at American Airlines Center on January 29, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Believe it or not, while you were sleeping, the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes both lost their games on Friday night and pushed the Maple Leafs into the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers lost 4-3 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving them 61 points in 51 games, including 18 regulation wins out of 27.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes lost 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights, giving them 61 points in 51 games as well, but with 21 regulation wins out of 29.

With Toronto’s 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night, they entered the weekend with — you guessed it — 61 points in 51 games. The difference: 22 regulation wins out of 27.

Here is what the standings look like, keeping in mind that the Florida Panthers have as many points as the Leafs, Canes, and Flyers, but in 49 games.

I think you’ll also be happy to know I cropped the image taken from NHL.com to include all the teams with a positive goal differential (except the New York Rangers), which conveniently took care of the Montreal Canadiens.

NHL standings as of February 1st, 2020
Credit: NHL.com

I have to say, for all the mistakes the NHL makes in their rules systems, changing from Regulation and Overtime Wins (ROW) as the tiebreaker to Regulation Wins (RW) is a great move and rightfully rewards teams that can win games without extra time.

Under Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs are 18-7-3 in 28 games (Babcock coached for 23), including 16 RWs. When Keefe got the job, the Leafs were two points out of the playoffs and fifth in the division. They are now in a three-way tie for the final spot and fourth place in the Atlantic.

Hopefully after tonight, they are in with a little more confidence. In terms of games, the Leafs are playing the Ottawa Senators, the Panthers are in Montreal to play the Habs, and just in case, the Columbus Blue Jackets are one point ahead of the Leafs for the first Wild Card and are on the road against the free-falling Buffalo Sabres.

It should be a fun night!

Leafs Branches

  • Kevin Gravel spent his day taking the Lakeshore train back and forth between the Coca-Cola Coliseum and Scotiabank Arena. He was called up for practice as a result from Travis Dermott missing practice, before being sent back down shortly after. Throughout those five hours, we moderately lost our minds.
  • The Toronto Marlies beat the Charlotte Checkers 6-2 in their first home game in almost four weeks. It was an encouraging win for a team that has been downright awful for over a month.

Here is a couple of the highlights, the first being Teemu Kivihalme and Scott Pooley showing off some of their talent in a goal, and the second being Timothy Liljegren showing off talent with no one to pass to.

  • The Newfoundland Growlers also won last night. A 5-0 stomping of the Brampton Beast. My favourite highlight was seeing this assist from Joseph Duszak to Aaron Luchuk.
  • From aHL to ECHL to OHL, Nick Robertson was at it again. This goal in the first extended his goal streak to 10 games, he has 13 in that time. Also in those 10 games, Robertson has 17 points and 73 shots!
  • From around the blogosphere, Bill Comeau over at MLHS looked at which defensemen the Leafs could target and how much they would cost... with data!
  • Last but not least, Willie O’Ree has an ESPN Doc coming out about his story of breaking hockey’s colour barrier.