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What the Maple Leafs need to clinch first in the North Division

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A lot of stuff can be wrapped up tonight.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - MAY 6: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens with teammates Mitchell Marner #16, Jake Muzzin #8 and Justin Holl #3 during the third period at the Scotiabank Arena on May 6, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have their first chance of clinching the North Division tonight over the rest of Canada’s NHL teams. They’ve had a comfortable lead for the majority of the season, and are out of reach from five of their rivals, but they can officially pull clear of Edmonton tonight with a point.

Ahead of tonight’s games, the Oilers are eight points back of the Leafs with four games remaining. If they win out, and the Leafs find zero points in their next three games against Montreal, Ottawa, and Winnipeg, the Oilers will jump ahead thanks to the first tiebreaker: regulation wins (they’re ahead 30 to 28 right now).

All the Leafs need is one point for themselves, or for the Oilers to drop a point in their final four games against Montreal and Vancouver. Ideally, Toronto would like to send the season home in style, building as much of a gap as possible to the rest of Canada for bragging rights and for momentum heading into the playoffs.

With the Leafs all but locked for first place, attention turns to who fills in the remaining three and in what order. Calgary is on their last magic number, needing a perfect final five games and zero points from Montreal to make it into the playoffs. Vancouver technically has a path if they get 15 points in their next eight games and Montreal lose out. However, those two teams have losing records in their last 10. Ottawa has long been out, but have actually closed the gap to Vancouver for sixth place in terms of points percentage.

So all that means Montreal is probably going to limp into the playoffs. Their goal will be to out-limp Winnipeg for third in the division. The Jets have 59 points with four games left against Ottawa, Vancouver, and the Leafs. The Canadiens have 57 points with three games left against the Leafs and Oilers.

Winnipeg holds the tiebreaker by two, so for the Habs to be out of reach, the Jets will need four or five points to clinch third, subject to change based on RWs. Depending on how things go in the next half-week, the Leafs could be playing the Jets next Friday to determine who they’ll face in the first round.

For tonight, if the Leafs beat the Habs in regulation, and the Jets beat the Sens in any scenario, the Leafs are guaranteed first and the Jets are guaranteed third. This is because the best the Habs could possibly do is tie the Jets in points and RW. However, they lose in ROW, the second tiebreaker.

Both the Jets and Habs are 3-6 against the Leafs this season, ignoring overtime points because those don’t count in the playoffs. It’s a low bar, but the Jets have played the Leafs the best out of the Canadian teams this season based on points awarded, tied with Vancouver at .444. The Habs have played the Leafs the worst, tied with Edmonton and Calgary at .389.

The Jets have had the best goaltending against the Leafs this season (.911 save percentage in all situations), while the Habs are second worst with a .874 sv%. And while I’m looking at Natural Stat Trick, I can see the Sens have by far the highest shooting percentage against the Leafs at 12%, which explains a lot. Oilers are last at 7% shooting, for the record.

Poll

Do the Leafs clinch first tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Yes!
    (487 votes)
  • 7%
    No, the Sens will ruin it
    (44 votes)
  • 3%
    No, I’m a delusional Habs fan
    (21 votes)
552 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How many goals does Matthews score in the first round?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    0-3
    (96 votes)
  • 60%
    4-6
    (294 votes)
  • 7%
    7-9
    (36 votes)
  • 12%
    He gets 50 before his 60th game of the "season"
    (62 votes)
488 votes total Vote Now