Coming into this season I was hoping we’d be in a situation like the past two where, at the end of February, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be sailing into a playoff spot and we’d be wondering who the first round victims will be.
However, this is not the case.
The Maple Leafs are hanging onto their spot in the playoffs by a thread and what we’re talking about right now is whether we’ll be the victims to the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
So, once again, I am dragging out a late season series that I hate to write: The Toronto Maple Leafs Cheering Guide.
From now until the Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot, I’ll check the NHL schedule and mark down the games that matter to the Maple Leafs and check off which teams are the ones we need to win. Without further adieu, the cheering guide for February 27th, 2020.
Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning
7:00PM - NBCSports Chicago, SUN Sports
This game doesn’t directly affect the Maple Leafs chances - the Lightning are well ahead of the Leafs and the Blackhawks are based out west. However, this game can help determine the Leafs possible first round opponent. If the Lightning win they could be three points closer to the division leading Boston Bruins. This is good if you’re looking for revenge against the Bruins, bad if you want a new opponent in round one.
Cheer for: Tampa Bay Lightning
I want revenge.
Dallas Stars at Boston Bruins
7:30PM - NBCSports, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario
This one has essentially the same stakes as the previous game. It all depends on who you want the Leafs to face in round one.
Cheer for: Dallas Stars
Vengeance shall be ours!
New York Islanders at St. Louis Blues
8:00PM - Fox Sports Mid-West, MSG+
The New York Islanders are currently in the first wild card spot. This gives them the opportunity to face off against the lesser of the two division winners in the Eastern Conference - right now this is the Washington Capitals. The Maple Leafs are three points behind the Islanders, and a Leafs win combined with an Isles loss puts us just one point back of the Islanders.
Cheer for: St. Louis Blues
While we may not want to play the Capitals in round one, we need to close out the gap between last in the Atlantic Division and the wild card playoff spots.
New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
7:00PM - RDS, TSN2, MSG2
The New York Rangers are surging up the standings and have an 8-2-0 record in their past ten games. They are closing the gap on the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, and with that the wild card playoff spots. The Columbus Blue Jackets are four points ahead of the Rangers now, and anyone getting close to a playoff spot is bad for the Maple Leafs.
This brings me to a hard decision, but we all make these choices for the ones we love. The Montreal Canadiens are seven points back of the Leafs, so a win won’t be too dangerous for us, but it will hurt the Rangers.
Cheer for: Montreal Canadiens.
Let’s move on.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers
7:00PM - TVA Sports, Fox Sports Florida, TSN4
The most important game of the night by a mile. The Florida Panthers are two points back of the Maple Leafs and have a game in hand. If the Panthers win in regulation they bump the Leafs out of a playoff spot by having that extra game to play. If the Leafs are going to lose - and they can’t afford to - they need to at least get a loser point out of this.
Cheer for: Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s the whole point.
Let’s start the countdown to the playoffs.
Go Leafs Go!